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gift of 



Dr. Lillian Billington 




STANFORD UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES 



/^ 



aM 



\ 



CooK^^'lUW W^llof^. 



The Fiction Factory 



By John Milton Edwards 

Q Being the Elxperience of a 
Writer who, for Twenty -two 
Years, has kept a Story-mill 
Grinding Successfully 



The Editor Company 

SIDGEWOOD. NEW JERSEY 



|v\\jSl 



01 



Copyright 1912 by 
The Editor Company. 



k. 



The Fiction Factory 



Contents of Clutpteri. 

PAGE. 

I. AuT Fiction, Aut Nullus - - - - ii 

II. As THB Twig is Bbnt ..... i6 

III. Methods that Make or Mas - - - 25 

IV. Getting Hooked up with a big House - 31 
V. Nickel Tbsills and Dollar Shockers - 58 

VI. Making Good by Hard Work - - - 42 

VII. Inspiration Alias Industry - - - 52 

VIII. The Wolf on the Sky Line ... 56 

IX. Raw Material . ..... 63 

X. Thb Wolf at the Door .... 68 

XI. When Fiction is Stranger than Truth - 76 

XII. Fortune Begins to Smile - - - - 80 

XIII. Our Friend the T. W. .... 88 

XIV. Fresh Fields and Pastures New - - - 94 
XV. From the Factory's Files - - - - 104 

XVI. Growing Prosperity - - - - - 110 

XVII. ^Ethics of the Nickel Novel - . - 117 

XVIII. Keeping Everlastingly at it - ^ .122 

XIX. Love Your Work for the Work's Sake - 129 

XX. The Lengthening list of PaTRONs - - 133 

XXI. A Writer's Reading ..... 142 

XXII. New Sources of Profit - - ... 146 

XXIII. Thc Injustice of it - - - - - 158 

XXIV. What Shall We Do with it - - - 163 
XXIV. Extracts Grave, Gay, Wise and Otherwise 171 

XXVI. Patrons and Pfofits for Twenty-Two Years 17s 



THE WRITER 
TO THE READER 

It was in 1893 that John Milton Edwards (who sets 
his hand to this book of e9q>eriences and prefers using 
the third person to overworking the egotistical pronoun) 
turned wholly to his pen as a means of livelihood. In 
this connection, of course, the word ''pen" is figurative. 
What he really turned to was his good friend, the Type- 
writer. 

For two years previous to this (to him) momentous 
event he had hearkened earnestly to the counsel that 
"literature is a good stick but a poor crutch/' and had 
cleaved to a position as paymaster for a firm of con* 
tractors solely because of the pay envelope that insured 
food and raiment. Spare hours alone were spent in his 
Fiction Factory. In the summer of 1893, however, when 
his evening and Sunday work brought returns that 
dwarfed his salary as paymaster, he had a heart to 
heart talk with Mrs. John Milton Edwards, and, as a 
result, the paymaster-crutch was dropped by the way- 
side. This came to pass not without many fears and 
anxieties, and later there arrived gray days when the lit- 
erary pace became unsteady and John Milton turned 
wistfu l eyes backward in the direction of his discarded 
crutch. ^utJhejM ver j^ 

From then till now John Milton Edwards has 

, J^/M4 . ^''^y ^^^ J^ in his Factory, and his output 

has supported himself and wife and enabled him to 

bear a number of other financial responsibilities. There 

have been fat years and lean — ^years when plenty invited 



THE WRITER TO THE READER 



foolish extravagance and years when poverty com* 
pelled painful sacrifices — ^yet John Milton Edwards can 
truly say that the work has been its own exceeding great 
reward. 

With never a "best seller" nor a successful play to 
run up his income, John Milton has, in a score and two 
years of work, wrested more than $100,000 from the 
tills of the publishers. Short stories, novelettes, serials, 
books, a few moving picture scenarios and a little verse 
have all contributed to the sum total. Industry was 
rowelled by necessity, and when a short story must fill 
the flour barrel, a poem buy a pair of shoes or a serial 
take up a note at the bank, the muse is provided with an 
atmosphere at which genius balks. True, Genius has 
emerged triumphant from many a Grub street attic, but 
that was in another day when conditions were different 
from what they arc now. In these twentieth century 
times the writer must give the public what the publisher 
thinks the public wants. Although the element of qual- 
ity is a sine qua non, it seems not to be incompatible 
with the element of quantity. 

It is hoped that this book will be found of interest 
to writers, not alone to those who have arrived but also 
to those who are on the way. Writers with name and 
fame secure may perhaps be entertained, while writers 
who are struggling for recognition may discover scmie- 
thing helpful here and there throughout John Milton 
Edwards' twenty-two years of literary endeavor. And 
is it too fair a hope that the ^reader of fiction will here 
find something to his taste? He has an acquaintance 
with the finished article, and it may chance that he has 
the curiosity to discover how the raw material was 

8 



THE WRITER TO THE READER 



taken, beaten into shape and finally laid before his eyes 
in his favorite periodical. 

John Milton Edwards, in the pages that follow, will 
spin the slender thread of a story recounting his suc- 
cesses and failures. Extracts of correspondence be- 
tween him and his publishers will be introduced, and 
other personal matters will be conjured with, by way of 
illustrating the theme and giving the text a helpful 
value. This slender thread of narrative will be broken 
at intervals to permit of sandwiching in a few chapters 
not germane to the story but en rapport with the work 
which made the story possible. In other words, while 
life goes forward within the Factory-walls it will not 
be amiss to give some attention to the Factory itself, 
to its equipment and methods, and to anything of pos- 
sible interest that has to do with its output. 

And finally, of course John Milton Edwards is not 
the author's real name. Shielded by a nom de plume, 
the author's experiences here chronicled may be of the 
most intimate nature. In point of fact, they will be 
helpful and entertaining in a direct ratio with their sin- 
cerity and frankness. 



X 



"A LITTLE GIFT - 



A little gift I have of words, 

A little talent, Lord, is all, 
And yet be mine the faith that girds 

An humble heart for duty's call. 

Where Genius soars to distant skies, 
And plumes herself in proud acclaim, 

Thou, let plodding talent prize 
The modest goal, the lesser fame. 

Let this suffice, make this my code. 
As I go forward day by day. 

To cheer one heart upon life's road. 
To ease one burden by the way. 

1 would not scale the mountain-peak* 
But I would have the strength of ten 

To labor for the poor and weak, 
And win my way to hearts of men. 

A little ^ft Thou gavest me, 

A little talent. Lord, is all. 
Yet humble as my art may be 

I hold it waiting for Thy call. 

September 20, 191 1. John Milton Edwards. 



10 



The Fiction Factory 

I. 

AUT FICTION, 
AUT NULLUS. 

"Wdl, my dear/' said John Milton Edwards, miser- 
ably uncertain and turning to appeal to his wife, ''which 
shall it be — ^to write or not to write ?" 

"To write," was the answer, promptly and boldly, ''to 
do nothing dse but write." 

John Milton wanted her to say that, and yet he did 
not. Her conviction, orally expressed, had all the ring 
of true metal ; yet her husband, reflecting his own inner 
perplexities, heard a false note suggesting the base alloy 
of uncertainty. 

"Hadn't we better think it over?" he quibbled. 

"You've been thinking it over for two years, John, 
and this month is the first time your returns irom your 
writing have ever been more than your salary at the 
office. If you can be so successful when you are obliged 
to work nights and Sundays — and most of the time with 
your wits befogged by office routine — what could you 
not do if you spent ALL your time in your Fiction Fac- 
tory?" 

"It may be," ventured John Milton, "that I could do 
better work, snatching a few precious moments from 
those everlasting pay-rolls, than by giving all my time 
and attention to my private Factory." 

"Is that logical?" inquired Mrs. John Milton. 

IX 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



"I don't know, my dear, whether it's logical or not 
We're dealing with a psychological mystery that has 
never been broken to harness. Suppose I have the whole 
day before me and sit down at my typewriter to write a 
story. Well and good. But getting squared away with 
a fresh sheet over the platen isn't the whole of it The 
Happy Idea must be evolved. What if the Happy Idea 
does not come when I am ready for it? "Happy Ideas, 
you know, have a disagreeable habit of hiding out. 
There's no hard and fast rule, that I am aware, for cap- 
turing a Happy Idea at just the moment it may be most 
in demand. There's lightning in a change of work, the 
sort of lightning that clears the air with a tonic of in- 
spiration. When I'm paymastering the hardest I seem 
to be almost swamped with ideas for the story mill. 
Query: Will the mill grind out as good a grist if it 
grinds continuously? If I were sure — ** 

"It stands to reason/' Mrs. Edwards maintained 
stoutly, "that if you can make $125 a month running 
the mill nights and Sundays, you ought to be able to 
make a good deal more than that with all the week days 
added." 

"Provided," John Milton qualified, "my fountain of 
inspiration will flow as freely when there is nothing to 
hinder it as it does now when I have it turned off for 
twelve hours out of the twenty-four." 

"Why shouldn't it?" 

"I don't know, my dear," John Milton admitted, "un- 
less it transpires that my inspiration isn't strong enough 
to be drawn on steadily." 

"Fudge," exclaimed Mrs. Edwards. 

"And then," her husband proceeded, "let us consider 

12 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

another phase of the question. The demand may fall 
off. The chances are that it WILL fall off the moment 
the gods become aware of the fact that I am depend- 
ing on the demand for our bread and butter. When- 
ever a thing becomes absolutely essential to you. Fate 
immediately obliterates every trail that leads to it, and 
you go wandering desperately back and forth, getting 
more and mor^ discouraged until — " 

"Until you drop in your tracks," broke in Mrs. Ed- 
wards, "and give up — a quitter." 

"Quitter" is a mean word. There's something about 
it that jostles you, and treads on your toes. 

"I don't think I'd prove a quitter," said John Milton, 
"even if I did get lost in a labyrinth of hard luck. It's 
the idea of losing you along with me that hurts." 

"I'll risk thatr 

"This is a panic year," John Milton went on, "and 
money is hard to get. It is hardly an auspicious time 
for tearing loose from a regular pay-day." 

John Milton and his wife lived in Chicago, and the 
firm for which John Milton worked had managed to 
keep afloat by having an accotmt in two banks. When 
a note fell due at one bank, the firm borrowed from the 
other to pay it. Thus, by borrowing from Peter to pay 
Paul, and from Paul to pay Peter, the contractors jug- 
gled with their credit and kept it good. Times were 
hard enough in all truth, yet they were not so hard in 
Chicago as in other parts of the country. The World's 
Colvmibian Exposition brought a flood of visitors to the 
city, and a flood of cash. 

"Bother the panic 1" jeered Mrs. Edwards. "It won't 
interfere with your work. Pleasant fiction is more 

13 



THE FICTION FACTORY 






soothing than hard facts. People will read all the more 
Just to forget their troubles/' 

"I'm pretty solid with the firm/' said John Milton, 
veering to another tack. "I'm getting twelve hundred 
a year, now, with an extra hundred for taking care of 
the Colonel's books," 

Is there any future to it ?" 

There is. I can buy stock in the company, identify 
myself with it more and more, and in twenty or thirty 
years* perhaps, move into a brownstone front on Easy 
street." 

"No, you couldn't!" declared Mrs. Edwards. 

"Why not?" 

"Why, because your heart wouldn't be in your work. 
Ever since you were old enough to know your own mind 
you have wanted to be a writer. When you were twelve 
years old you were publishing a little paper for boys — " 
"It was a four-page paper about the size of lady's 
handkerchief," laughed John Milton, "and it lasted for 
two issues." 

"Well," insisted his wife, "you've been writing 
stories more or less all your life, and if you are ever a 
success at anything it will b^ in the fiction line. You 
are now twenty-six years old, and if you make your 
mark as an author it's high time you were about it 
Don't you think so? If I'm willing to chance it, John, 
you surely ought to be." 

"All right," was the answer, "it's a 'go.' " 
And thus it was that John Milton Edwards reached 
his momentous decision. Perhaps you, who read these 
words, have been wrestling soulfully with the same ques- 
tion — ^vacillating between authorship as a vocation or as 

14 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



an avocation. Edwards made his decision eighteen years 
ago. At that time conditions were different; and it is 
donbtfol whether, had he faced conditions as they are 
now» he would have decided to ran his Fiction Factory 
on full time. 



**An eye for an eye*** 

A writer whose stories have been used in the Munsey 
publications, Pearson's and other magazines, writes: 

'"How is this as an illustration of timeliness, or the 
personal element in writing? — I went in to see Mr. Mat- 
thew White, Jr., one day with a story and he said he 
couldn't read it because he had a sore eye. I had an 
eye for that eye as fiction, so I sat down and wrote a 
story in two hours' time about an editor who couldn't 
read any stories on account of his bum lamp, whereby 
he nearly missed the best story for the year. Mr. 
White was interested in the story mainly because he 
had a sore eye himself and was in full sympathy with 
the hero. I took the story down and read it aloud to 
him, selling it, of course. The story was called, ''When 
the Editor's Eye Struck." 

(Talk about making the most of your opportunities!) 



The Bookman, somewhere, tells of a lady in the Mid- 
dle West who caught the fiction fever and wrote in 
asking what price was paid for stories. To the reply 
that $10 a thousand was paid for good stories" she 
made written response: **Why, it takes me a week to 
write one story, and $io for a thousand weeks' work 
looks so discouraging that I guess I'd better try some- 
thing else." 



Poeta nascitur; non fit This has been somewhat 
freely translated by one who should know, as 'The poet 
is bom; not paid." 



IS 



11. 

AS THE TWIG 
IS BENT 

Edwards' earliest attempt at fiction was a dramatic 
effort. The play was in three acts, was entitled "Roder- 
igo, the Pirate Chief," and was written at the age of 12. 
The young playwright was Roderigo, the play was given 
in the loft of the Edwards bam, and twenty-five pins 
was the price of admission (thirty if the pins were 
crooked). The neighborhood suffered a famine in pins 
for a week after the production of the play. The juve- 
nile element clamored to have the performance repeated, 
but the patrons' parents blocked the move by bribing the 
company with a silver dollar. It was cheaper to pay 
over the dollar than to buy back several thousand pins 
at monopoly prices. 

In 1881 "Simon Girty; or. The Border Boys of the 
West" was offered. The first performance (which was 
also the last) was given in Ottawa, Kansas, and the mod- 
est fee of admission was 5 cents. The play was very 
favorably received and might have had an extended rtm 
had not the mothers of the "border boys" discovered 
that they were killing Indians with blsmk cartridges. 
Gathering in force, the mothers stormed the bam and 
added a realistic climax to the fourth act by spanking 
Simon Girty and disarming his trusty "pards." 

Shortly after this, the musty records show that Ed- 
wards tumed from the drama to narrative fiction, and 
endeavored successfully to get into print The foUow- 

26 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

-■ ■ I I I ■■■! I ■■■ - I I ■ I - - - - ^ 

ing, copied from an engraved certificate, offers evidence 
of his budding aspirations : 

Frank Leslie's 

BOYS' AND GIRLS' WEEKLY. 

Award of Merit. 

This is to certify that John Milton Edwards, 

Ottawa, Kansas, has been awarded Honorable 

Mention for excellence in literary composition. 

New York, Oct. 30, 1882. Frank Leslie. 

This "honorable mention" from the publisher of a 
paper, which young Edwards looked forward to from 
week to week and read and re-read with fascination and 
delight, must have inoculated him for all time with the 
fiction virus. Forthwith he began publishing a story 
paper on a hektograph. Saturday was the day of publi- 
cation, and the office of publication was the loft of the 
Edwards' bam. Even at that early day the author un- 
derstood the advantage of holding "leave-of fs"* in serial 
work. He was altogether too successful with his leave- 
off s, for his readers, gasping for the rest of the story 
and unable to wait for the next issue of the paper, 
mobbed the office and forced him, with a threat of dire 
things, to tell them the rest of the yarn in advance of 
publication. After that, of course, publication was un- 
necessary. 

It was a problem with young Edwards, about this 
time, to secure enough blank paper for his scribbling 
needs. Two old ledgers, only partly filled with ac- 

* "Leave-ofr* — ^the place where a serial is broken, and the 
words "To be continued in our next'* appear. Mr. Matthew 
White, Jr., Editor of the Avsosy, is supposed to have coined the 
expression. At any rate, Mr. White has a ffreat deal to do with 
'leave-offs" and ouffht to know what to call them. 

17 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



cotints, fell into his hands, and he used them for his cal- 
low essays at authorship. He has those ledgers now, 
and derives considerable amusement in looking through 
them. They prove that he was far from being a prodigy, 
and reflect credit on him for whipping his slender talents 
into shape for at least a commercial success in later life. 
Consider this : 

Scene III. 

J. B.— We made a pretty good haul that time, Jim. 

B. J.— Yes, I'd like to make a haul like that every night. 
We must have got about $50,000. 

J. B. — Now we will go and get our boots blacked, then go 
and get us a suit of clothes, and then skip to the West Indies. 

Here a $50,000 robbery had been committed and the 
thieves were calmly discussing getting their boots blacked 
and replenishing their wardrobe (one suit pf clothes be- 
tween them seems to have been enough) before taking; 
to flight. Shades of Sherlock, how easily a boy of 12 
makes business for the police department 1 

Or consider this gem from Act II. The aforesaid 
"J. B." and "B. J." have evidenUy been "pinched" 
while getting their boots blacked or while buying their 
suit of clothes: 

J. B.— We're in the jug at last, Jim, and I'm afraid we'll 
be sentenced to be shot. 

B. J.—Don't be discouraged, BilL 

Enter Sleek, the detective. 

Sleek.--We've got you at last, eh? 

J. B. — You'll never get the money, just the same. 

Sleek. — ^We'il shoot you if you don't tell where it is like a 
dog. 

Then here's something else which seems to prove that 

young Edwards occasionally fell into rhyme: 

Oh, why cut down those forests. 
Our forests old and grand? 

18 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



And ok, why cheat the Indians 

Out of all their land? 
Enclosed by civilization, 

Snrronnded they by towns, 
Cabnly when this life is done 

They seek their hunting-grounds! 

John Milton Edwards has always had a place in his 
heart for the red man, and another for his countr/s 
vanishing timber. He is to be congratulated on his 
youthful sentiments if not on the way they were ex- 
pressed. 

In 1882 the Edwards family removed to Chicago. 
There were but three in the family — the father, the 
mother, and John Milton. The boy was taken from the 
Ottawa high school and, as soon as they were all com- 
fortably settled in the "Windy City," John Milton made 
what he has since believed to be the mistake of his ca- 
reer. His father offered him his choice of either a uni- 
versity or a business education. He chose to spend two 
years in Bryant & Stratton's Business College. His lit* 
erary career would have been vastly helped had he taken 
the other road and matriculated at either Harvard or 
Yale. He had the opportunity and turned his back on it. 

He was writing, more or less^ all the time he was a 
student at Bryant & Stratton's. The school grounded 
him in double-entry bookkeeping, in commercial law, and 
in shorthand and typewriting. 

When he left the business college he found employ- 
ment with a firm of subscription book publishers, as 
stenc^frapher. There came a disagreement between the 
two partners of the firm, and the young stenographer 
was offered for $1,500 the retiring partner's interest. 
The elder Edwards, who would have had to furnish the 
$1,500, could not see anything alluring in the sale of 

19 



-.1 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

books through agents, and the deal fell through. Two 
years later, while John Milton was working for a railroad 
company as ticket agent at $60 a month, his old friend 
of the subscription book business dropped in on him and 
showed him a sworn statement prepared for Dim and 
Bradstreet. He had cleared $60,000 in two years! Had 
John Milton bought the retiring partner's interest he 
would have been worth half a million before he had 
turned thirty. 

The fiction bee, however, was continually buzzing in 
John Milton's brain. He had no desire to succeed at 
anything except authorship. 

Leaving the railroad company, he went to work for 
a boot and shoe house as bill clerk, at $12 a week. The 
death of his father, at this time, came as a heavy blow 
to young Edwards; not only that, but it brought him 
heavy responsibilities and led him seriously to question 
the advisibility of ever making authorship — as he had 
secretly hoped — z vocation. His term as bill clerk was a 
sort of probation, allowing the young man time, in leis- 
ure hours, further to try out his talent for fiction. He 
was anxious to determine if he could make it a commer- 
cial success, and so justify himself in looking forward 
to it as a life work. 

The elder Edwards had been a rugged, self-made man 
with no patience for anything that was not strictly "busi- 
ness.'' He measured success by an honorable standard 
of dollars and cents. For years previous to his death he 
had been accustomed to see his son industriously scrib- 
bling, with not so much as a copper cent realized from 
all that expenditure of energy. Naturally out of sym- 
pathy with what he conceived to be a waste of time and 

ao 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



effort) Edwards^ Sr., did not hesitate to express himself 
forcibly. On one ocassion he looked into his son's room, 
saw him feverishly busy at his desk and exclaimed, iras- 
cibly, "Damn the verses !" 

Young Edwards' mother, on the other hand, was 
well educated and widely read ; indeed, in a limited way, 
she had been a writer herself, and had contributed in 
earlier life to Harper's Magazine. She could see that 
perhaps a pre-natal influence was shaping her son's ca- 
reer, and understood how he might be working out his 
apprenticeship. Thus she became the gentle apologist, 
excusing the boy's unrewarded labors, on the one hand, 
and the father's cui bono ideas, on the other. 

The Chicago Times, in its Stmday edition, used a 
story by young Edwards. It was not paid for but it 
was published, and (he elder Edwards surreptitiously se- 
cured many copies of the paper and sent them to distant 
friends. Thus, although he would not admit it, he 
showed his pride in his son's small achievement. 

From the boot and shoe house young Edwards went 
back to the railroad company again; from there, when 
the railroad company closed its Chicago office, he went 
to a firm of wholesalers in coke and sewer-pipe; and^ 
later, he engaged as paymaster with the firm of contrac- 
tors. Between the coke and sewer pipe and the pay-rolls 
he wedged in a few days of reporting for The Chicago 
Morning News; and on a certain Friday, the last of 
February, he got married, and was back at his office 
desk on the following Monday morning. 

The first story for which Ewards received payment 
was published in The Detroit Free Press, Sept. 19, 1889. 
The payment was $8. 

21 ■ . i 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

In April, the same year, the Free Press inaugurated 
a serial story contest. Edwards entered two stories, one, 
under a nom de plume. Neither won a prize, but both 
were bought and published. For the first, published in 
1891, he was paid $75 on Feb. 2, 1890; and for the 
second, published a year later, he was paid $100. 

With the opening installment of the first serial the 
Free Press published a photograph of the author over a 
stickful of biography. On another page appeared a 
paragraph in boldface type announcing the discovery of 
a new star in the literary heavens. 

The spirit of John Milton Edwards swelled within 
him. He feasted his eyes on his printed picture (the 
rapid newspaper presses had made a smudge of it), he 
read and re-read his lean biography (lean because not 
much had happened to him at that time) and he gloried 
over the boldface type with its message regarding the new 
star (he was to learn later that many similar stars are 
born to blush unseen) and he felt himself a growing 
power in the world of letters. 

Verily, a pat on the back is ,a thing to conjure with. 
It is more ennobling, sometimes, than a kingly tap with 
a swordpoint accompanied by the wordis, "I dub thee 
knight." To the fine glow of youthful enthusiasm it 
opens broad vistas and offers a glimpse of glittering 
heights. Even though that hand-pat inspires dreamy 
never to be realized, who shall say that a little encourage- 
ment, bringing out the best in us, does not result in much 
good ? 

And in this place John Milton Edwards would make 
a request of the reader of fiction. If you are pleased 
with a story, kindly look twice at the author's name so 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



you may recall it pleasantly if it chances to come again 
under your eye. If you are a great soul, given to the 
scattering of benefactions, you might even go a little far- 
ther : At the expense of a postage stamp and a little time, 
address a few words of appreciation to the author in 
care of his publisher. You wist not, my beloved, what 
weight of gold your words may carry ! 

From the summer of '89 to the stmimer of '93 Ed- 
wards wrote many stories and sketches for The Detroit 
Free Press, Puck, Truth, The Ladies' World, Yankee 
Blade, Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly, Chatter, Satur- 
day Night, and other periodicals. In 1890 he was re- 
ceiving $10 a month for contributions to a little Chicago 
weddy called Figaro; and, during the same year, he 
found a market which was to influence profoundly a 
decade of work and his monetary returns ; James Elver- 
sen paid him $75 for a serial to be used in Saturday 
Night. 

Undoubtedly it was this serial that pointed Edwards 
toward the sensational story papers. A second serial, 
sold to Saturday Night, Oct. 21, 1891, brought $150; 
while a third, paid for July 20, 1893, netted a like 
amount. These transactions carried the true ring of 
commercial success. Apart from myth and fable, there 
is no more compelling siren song in history than the 
chink of silver. lEdwards, burdened with responsibili- 
ties, gave ear to it. 

The serial story, published in the Free Press in 1891, 
had made friends for Edwards. Among these friends 
was Alfred B. Tozer, editor of The Chicago Ledger. 
Through Mr. Tozer, Edwards received commissions for 
stories covering a period of years. The payment was 

23 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

$1.50 a thousand words — modest, indeed, but r^^ular 
and dependable.* 

From 1889 to 1893 Edwards was laboring hard — all 
day long at his clerical duties and then until midnight 
in his Fiction Factory. The pay derived from his fic- 
tion output was small, (the Ladies* World gave him $5 
for a 5,000-word story published March 18, 1890, and 
The Yankee Blade sent him $13 on Jan. 10, 1891, for a 
story of 8,500 words), but Edwards was prolific, and 
often two or three sketches a day came through his 
t3rpewriter. 

Early in 1893, however, he saw that he was at the 
parting of the ways. He could no longer serve two 
masters, for the office work was suffering. He realized 
that he was not giving the contracting firm that faitii; 
f ul service and undivided energy which they had the right 
to exp^t, and it was up to him to do pne line of work 
and one only. 

* In these later times, with other hands than those of lir. 
Tozer at the helm, The Chleaso liedser seems to have become 
the Sargasso Sea of the popular fictionist — ^a final refugre for 
story derelicts. The craft that grows leaky and water^log-ffed 
througrh much straining- and wearisome beating about from 
port to port, has often and often come to anchor in the col- 
umns of the liCdser. 



** Slips and Tips** 

One of Mr. White's authors who had never been in 
Europe set out to write a story of a traveller who de- 
termined to get along without tipping. The author de- 
scribed his traveller's horrible plight while being shown 
around the Paris Bastille — ^which historic edifice had 
been razed to the ground some two centuries before the 
story was written! The author received a tip from Mr. 
White on his tipping story, a tip never to do it again. 



24 



III. 

METHODS THAT 
MAKE OR MAR. 

Edwards has no patience* with those writers who 
think they are of a finer or different clay from the rest 
of mankind. Genius, however, may be forgiven many 
things, and the artistic temperament may be pardoned an 
occasional lapse from the conventional. This is adver- 
tising, albeit of a very indifferent sort, and advertising 
is a stepping-stone to success. The fact remains that 
True Genius does not brand with eccentricity the intelli- 
gence through which it expresses itself. Tlie time has 
passed when long hair and a Windsor tie proclaim a man 
a favorite of the muses. 

Edwards knows a young writer who believes himself 
a genius and who has, indeed, met with some wonderful 
successes, but he spoils an otherwise fine character by 
slovenliness of dress and by straining for a so-called 
Bohemian effect. Bohemia, of course, is merely a state 
of mind; its superficial area is fanciful and contracted; 
it is wildly unconventional, not to say immoral ; and no. 
right-thinking, right-feeling artist will drink at its sloppy 
tables or associate with its ribald-tongued habitues. The 
yovang writer here mentioned has been doped and shang- 
haied. As soOn as he comes to himself he will escape to 
more creditable surroundings. 

There is another writer of Edwards' acquaintance 
who, by profane and blasphemous utterance, seeks to 
convince the public that he has the divine fire. His 
language, it is true, shows ''character,'' but not of the 
sort that he imagines. 

25 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

A writer, to be successful, must humble himself with 
the lowly or walk pridefuUy with the great. For pur- 
poses of study he may be all things to all men, but let 
him see to it that he is not warped in his own self- 
appraisal. Never, unless he wishes to make himself 
ridiculous, should he build a pedestal, climb to its crest 
and pose. If he is worthy of a pedestal the public will 
see that it is properly constructed. 

A writer is neither better nor worse than any other 
man who happens to be in trade. He is a manufacturer. 
After gathering his raw product, he puts it through the 
mill of his imagination, retorts from the mass the per- 
sonal equation, refines it with a sufficient amount of 
commonsense and runs it into bars — of bullion, let us 
say. If the product is good it passes at face value and 
becomes a medium of exchange. 

Any merchant or professional man who conducts his 
business with industry, taste and skill is the honorable 
and worthy peer of the man who writes and writes well. 
Every clean, conscientious calling has its artistic side 
and profits through the application of business principles. 

Nowadays, for a writer to scribble his effusions in 
pale ink with a scratchy pen on both sides of a letter- 
sheet is not to show genius but ignorance. If he is a 
good manufacturer he should be proud of his product;^ 
and a good idea is doubly good if carefully clothed. 

Edwards counts it a high honor that, in half a dozen 
editorial offices, his copy has been called "copperplate." 
"I always like to see one of your manuscripts come in," 
said Mr. White, of The Argosy. "Here's another of Ed- 
wards' stories," said Mr. Harriman of The Red Book,* 

*h£r, Harrinmn is now with The lAdlea^ Home Jimnud* 

26 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

''send it to the composing room just as it is." Such a 
condition of affairs certainly is worth striving for. 

As a rule the young writer does not give this matter 
of neatness of manuscript the proper attention. Is he 
careful to count the letters and spaces in his story title 
and figure to place the title in the exact middle of the 
page? It is not difficult. 

When a line is drawn between title, writer's name 
and the body of the story, it is easy to set the carriage 
pointer on "35" and touch hyphens until you reach "45." 
It is easy to number the pages of a manuscript in red 
with a bichrome ribbon, and to put the number in the 
middle of the sheet. Nor is it very difficult to turn out 
dean copy — ^merely a little more industry with a rubber 
eraser, or perhaps the re-writing of an occasional sheet. 

After a manuscript is written, the number of words 
computed, and a publication selected wherewith to try 
its fortunes, a record should be made. Very early 
in his literary career Edwards devised a scheme for 
keeping track of his manuscripts. He had a thousand 
slips printed and bound strongly into two books of 500 
slips each. Each slip consisted of a stub for the record 
and a form letter, with perforations so that they could 
easily be torn apart. 

Record of Ms., No.... 411 Blank Street, 

Title Chicago, 111 189.. 

Class • Editor 

No. Words 

Sent to Date 

Returned.... Condition Dear Sir: 

Sent to Date Tlie inclosed Ms., entitled. . 

Returned. . . .Condition 

Sent to Date containing* about words. 

Returned .... Condition .... and signed 

Sent to Date Is offered at your usual rates. 

Returned... .Condition .... If not available please return. 

Accepted Stamped and addressed envelope 

Am*t paid Date inclosed. 

Remarks Very truly yours, 

John Milton Edwards. 

27 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

Every manuscript was numbered and the numbers, 
running consecutively, were placed in the upper right- 
hand comers of the stubs. This made it easy to refer to 
the particular stub which held the record of a returned 
story. 

Edwards used this form of record keeping for years. 
Even after he came to look upon a form letter with a 
manuscript as a waste of effort, he continued to use the 
stubs. About the year 1900 card indexes came into 
vogue, and now a box of cards is sufficient for keeping 
track of a thousand manuscripts. It is far and away 
more convenient than the "stub** system. 

Each story has its card, and each card gives the man- 
uscript's life history; title, when written, number of 
words, amount of postage required for its going and 
coming flirough the mail, when and where sent, 
when returned, when accepted and when paid for, to- 
gether with brief notes regarding the story's vicissitudes 
or final good fortune. After a story is sold the card 
serves as a memorandum, and all these memoranda, to- 
talled at the end of the year, form an accurate report of 
the writer's income. 

In submitting his stories Edwards always sends the 
serials flat, between neatly-cut covers of tarboard girded 
with a pair of stout rubber bands. This makes a handy 
package and brings the long story to the editor's atten- 
tion in a most convenient form for reading. 

With double-spacing Edwards' typewriter will place 
400 words on the ordinary 8 1-2 by 1 1 sheet. Serials of 
60,000 words, covering 150 sheets, and even novelettes 
of half that length, travel more safely and more com- 
fortably by express. Short stories, running up to i; 

26 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

in rare instances, to 20— pages are folded twice, in- 
closed in a stamped and self-addf essed No. 9, cloth-lined 
envelope and this in turn slipped into a No. 10 cloth-lined 
envelope. Both these envelopes open at the end, which 
does not interfere with the tjrped superscription. 

By always using typewriter paper and envelopes of 
the same weight, Edwards knows exactly how much 
postage a story of so many sheets will require. 

In wrapping his serial stories for transportation by 
express, Edwards is equally careful to make them into 
neat bundles. For 10 cents he can secure enough light, 
strong wrapping paper for a dozen packages, and 25 
cents will procure a ball of upholsterer's twine that will 
last a year. 

Another helpful wrinMe, and one that makes for 
neatness, is an address label printed on gummed paper. 
Edwards' name and address appear at the top, following 
the word "From." Below are blank lines for name and 
address of the consignee. 

In his twenty-two years of work in the fiction field 
Edwards has made certain of this, that there is not a 
detail in the preparation or recording or forwarding of 
a manuscript that can be neglected. Competition is keen. 
Big names, without big ideas back of them, are not so 
prone to carry weight. It's the stuff, itself, that counts ; 
yet a business-like way of doing things carries a mute 
appeal to an editor before even a line of the manu- 
script has been read. It is a powerful appeal, and all 
on the writer's side. 

Is it necessary to dwell upon the importance of a 
carbon copy of every story offered through the mails, 

29 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

or entrusted to the express companies? Edwards lost 
the sale of a $300 serial when an installment of the 
story went into a railroad wreck at Shoemaker, Kansas^ 
and, blurred and illegible, was delivered irf New York 
one week after another writer had written another in- 
stallment to take its place. In this case the carbon copy 
served only as an aid in collecting $50 from the express 
company. 

At another time, when The Woman's Home Com- 
panion was publishing a short serial by Edwards, one 
complete chapter was lost through some accident in the 
composing room. Upon receipt of a telegram, Edwards 
dug the carbon copy of the missing chapter out of his 
files, sent it on to New York, and presently received an 
extra $5 with the editor's compliments. 



"My brow shall be garnished with bays.** 

AMERICA 
Editorial Rooms, Chicago. 

Aug. 16, 1889. 

Dear Mr. Edwards: — 

In regard to the enclosed verse, we would take pleas- 
ure in publishing it, but before doing so we beg to call 
/our attention to the use of the word ''garnish" in 
the last line of the first verse, and the second line of the 
second. The general idea of "garnish" is to decorate, or 
embellish. We say that a beefsteak is "garnished" with 
mushrooms, and so it would hardly be right to us^^ the 
virord in the sense of crowning a poet with a wreath of 
bays. 

You will pardon us for calling attention to this, but 
you know that the most serious verse can be spoiled by 
by just such a slip, which of course is made without its 
character occurring to the mind of the writer. 

Yours respectfully, 

Slason Thompson & Co. 



30 



IV. 

GETTING "HOOKED UP" 

WITH A BIG HOUSE. 

It was during the winter of 1892-3 that Edwards 
happened to step into the editorial office of a Chicago 
story paper for which he had been writing. His lucky 
stars were most auspiciously grouped that morning. 

We shall call the editor Amos Jones. That was not 
bis name, but it will serve. 

Edwards found Jones in a very exalted frame of 
mind. Before him, on his desk, lay an open letter and 
a bundle of newspaper dippings. After greeting Ed- 
wards, Jones turned and struck the letter triumphantly 
with the flat of his hand. 

"This," he exclaimed, "means ten thousand a year 
to Yours Truly 1" 

He was getting $50 a week as editor of the story 
paper, and a sudden jump from $2,600 to $10,000 a year 
was sufficiently unsettling to make his mood excusable. 
Edwards extended congratulations and was allowed to 
read the letter. 

It was from a firm of publishers in New York City, 
rated up in the hundreds of thousands by the commer- 
cial agencies. These publishers, who are to figure ex- 
tensively in the pages that follow, will be referred to as 
Harte & Perkins. They had sent the clippings to Jones, 
inclosed in the letter, and had requested him to use them 
in writing stories for a five-cent library. 

Jones' enthusiasm communicated itself to Edwards. 
For four years the latter had been digging away, in his 

31 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

humble Fiction Factory, and his literary labors had 
brought a return averaging $25 a month. This was ex- 
cellent for piecing out the office salary, but in the glow 
of Jones' exultation Edwards began to dream dreams. 
When he left the editor's office Edwards was cogi- 
tating deeply. He had attained a little success in writ- 
ing and believed that if Jones could make ten thousand 
a year grinding out copy for Harte & Perkins he could. 

Edwards did not ask Jones to recommend him to 
Harte & Perkins. Jones was a good fellow, but writ- 
ers are notoriously jealous of their prerogatives. After 
staking out a claim, the writer-man guards warily 
against having it "jumped." Edwards went about in- 
troducing himself to the New York firm in his own way. 

At that time he had on hand a fairly well-written, 
but somewhat peculiar long story entitled, "The M3rs- 
tery of Martha." He had tried it out again and again 
witfi various publishers only to have it returned as "well 
done but unavailable because of the theme." This story 
was submitted to Harte & Perkins. It was returned, 
in due course, with the following letter: 

New York, March 23, 1893. 

Mr. John Milton Edwards, 
Chicago, Ills. 

Dear Sir: — 

We have your favor of March the 19th together with 
manuscript of "The Mystery of Martha," which as it is unavail- 
able we return to you to-day by express as you request 

We are overcrowded with material for our story paper, for 
which we presume you submitted this manuscript, and, indeed, 
we think "The Mystery of Martha" is more suitable for book 
publication than in any other shape. 

The only field that is open with us is that of our various 
five and ten cent libraries. You are perhaps familiar with these, 
and if you have ever done anything in this line of work, we 

32 . . 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



ikoold be ptawed to have you subniit the printed copy of same 
for our examination, and if we find it suitable we thkk we could 
use some of jour material in thii line. 

Mr. Jonea^ whom you refer to in your letter, is one of our 
regular contributors. 

Yours truly, 

Harte ft Perkins. 
Here was the opening! Edwards lost no time in 
taking advantage of it and sent the following letter : 

Chicago, March 2S '93t. 

Messrs. Harte ft Perldns, Publishers, 

New York Qty. 
Gentlemen :— 

I have your letter of the 23d inst In reply would state 
that I have done some writing for Beadle ft Adams ("Banner 
Weekly) although I have none of it at hand, at present, to 
send you. I also am a contributor to "Saturday Night," 
(James Elverson's paper) and have sold them a number of ser- 
ial stories, receiving from them as much as $150 for 50,000 
words. It is probable that material suitable to the latter per- 
iodical would be out of the question with you; still, I can write 
the kind of stories you desire, all I ask being the opportunity. 

Inclosed please find Chapter I of "J^^ o' Diamonds; or, 
The Cache in the Coteaux." Perhaps Western stories are bug- 
bears with you (tiiey are, I know, with most publishers) but 
tiiere are no Indians in this one. I should like to go ahead, 
write this story, submit it, and let you see what I can do. I 
an able to turn out work in short order, if you should desire 
it, and feel that I can satisfy you. All I wish to know is how 
lon^ you want the stories, what price is paid for them and 
whether there is any particular Idnd that you need. I have an 
idea diat the Thrun case would afford material for a good 
story. At least, I thiuk I can write you a good one with that 
as a foundation. Please let me hear from you. 

Yours very truly, 

John Milton Edwards. 

To this Edwards received the following reply, under 

date of March 30 : 

We have your favor of March 25th together with small in- 
stallment of story entitled "Jack o' Diamonds." Our careful 
reading of the installment leads us to believe that you write 
easify, and can probably do suitable work for our Ten-Cent 

33 



I 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Library, though tiie particular scene described in this install- 
ment is one that can be found in almost any of the old time 
libraries. It is a chestnut A decided back number. 

What we require for our libraries is something written up- 
to-date, with incidents new and original, with which the daily 
press is teeming. I inclose herewith a clipping headed, "Thrun 
Tells it All/' whidi, used without proper names, might suggest 
a good plot for a story, and you could work in suitable action 
and incident to make a good tale. 

If you will submit us such a story we shall be pleased to ex- 
amine same, and if found suitable we will have a place for it at 
once. We pay for stories in this library $ioo; they should con- 
tain 40,000 words, and when issued s^pear under our own Kom 
de plume. 

Installment "Jsick o' Diamonds" returned herewith. 

/ Thus it was up to Edwards to go ahead and ''make 
good." Such a climax has a weird effect on some 
j authors. They put forth all their energy securing an 
I order to "go ahead" and then, at the critical moment, 
I experience an attack of stage fright, lose confidence 
I and bolt, leaving the order unfilled. 

Years later, in New York, such a case came under 
Edwards' observation. A young woman had besi^;ed 
a certain editor for two years for a commission. When 
the coveted commission arrived, the young woman took 
to her bed, so self-conscious that she was under a doc- 
tor's care for a month. The story was never turned in. 

Edwards, in his own case, did not intend to put all 
his eggs in one basket. He not only set to work writing 
a ten-cent library story (which he called "Glim Peters 
on His Mettle") but he also wrote and forwarded a 
five-cent library story entitled, "Fearless Frank." 
"Fearless Frank" — galloped home again bearing a re- 
quest that Edwards make him over into a detective. On 
April 15 Edwards received the following: 

34 



I 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



We have your favor of April 13, and note that the insurance 
story, relating to Thrun, is nearly completed, and will be for- 
warded on Monday next I hope you have not made the hero 
too juvenile, as this would be a serious fault The stories in the 
Ten-Cent Library are not read by boys alone but usually by 
young men, and in no case should the hero be a kid, such as we 
fear would be your idea of a Chicago newsboy. 

We note that you have considered our suggestions, and also 
that you will fix up the "Fearless Frank" manuscript with a 
view of making it a detective story. 

For your information, therefore, we mail you under separ- 
ate cover Nos. 2, 11, 15 and 20 of the Five-Cent Library, which 
will give you an idea of the character of this detective. We hope 
you will give us what we want in both these stories. 

On April 25 Edwards received a long letter that de- 
lighted him. He was "making good." 

I have carefully read your story, "Glim Peters on His Met- 
tle," and, as I feared, find the same entirely too juvenile for the 
Tea-Cent Library, though quite suitable for the Five-Cent 
Library, had it not been double the length required. I first con- 
sidered the question of asking you to make two stories of it for 
this library, but finally decided that this would be somewhat 
difficult and unnecessary, as we shall find a place for it later in 
the columns of our Boy's Story Paper, to be issued under nom 
de plume, and will pay you $75 for same. 

The chief point of merit in the story is the excellent and 
taking dialogue between Glim Peters, his chum and the detectives. 
This boy is a strong character, well delineated and natural. The 
incident covered by clairvoyant visits, the scene at the World's 
Fair and the Chinese joint experience were all excellent ; but the 
^ost in the old Willett house, and indeed the whole plot, is 
poor. Judging from this story and the previous one submitted, 
the plot is your weak point In future stories make no special 
effort to produce an unusual plot, but stick closer to the action 
and incident, taken as much as possible from newspapers, which 
are teeming with material of this character. 

We shall now expect to receive from you at an early date, 
the detective story, and to follow this we will forward you ma- 
terial, in a few days, for a Ten-Cent Library story. We for- 
ward 3rou to-day, under separate cover, several numbers to give 
you an idea of tiie class of story that is suitable for the Ten- 
Cent Library. Such scenes in your last story as where Glim 



35 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



rf t«ra tucceeded in buying a mustang and defeated tiie deacon 
in to doing, arc just the tting for the Ten-Cent Library; the 
Mim« can also be said of the scene in which Meg, Ac girl in tiic 
W^fi stands off the detectives in a vain attempt to save the vil- 
IWnt, That is the sort of thing, and we feel tfiat you will be 
ibw to do it when you know what we want. 

I forward you, also, a copy of Ten-Cent Library No. i8s, 
wntch I would like you to read, and let me know whether you 
fOuM write us a number of stories for this particular series. 
With the same hero and the same class of incidents. If so, about 
now long would it take 3rou to write 40.000 words? It is pos- 
iible I may be able to start you on this series, of which we have 
ilready issued a number. 

About May i Edwards sent the first detective story. 

On May 10 he received a letter, of which the following 

la an extract 

We are in a hurry for this series (the series for the Ten- 
Cent Library) but after you have finished the first one, and dur- 
ing the time that we are reading it, you can go ahead with the 
second detective story, "The Capture of Keno Clark," which, al- 
though we are in no hurry for it, we may be able to use in about 
six weeks or two months. You did so well with the first detec- 
tive story that I have no doubt you can make the second a sat- 
isfactory one. However, if we find the series for the Ten-Cent 
Library O. K., we will want jrou to write these, one after the 
other as rapidly as possible until we have had enough of them. 

As to our method of payment, would say that it is our cus- 
tom to pay for manuscripts on Thursday following the day of 
issue, but, agreeably with your request, we mail 3rou a check to- 
morrow in payment of "Glim Peters on His Mettle," and will al- 
ways be willing to accomodate you in like manner when you find 
it necessary to call upon us. 

So Edwards made good with the publishing firm of 
Harte & Perkins, and for eighteen years there have 
been the pleasantest of business relations between them. 
Courteous always in their dealings, prompt in their pay- 
ments to writers, and eager alwavs to send pages and 
pages of helpful letters, Harte & Perkins have grown to 
be the most substantial publishers in the country. Is it 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



because of their interest in their writers ? Certainly not 
in spite of it! 

For them Edwards has written upwards of five hun- 
dred five-cent libraries, a dozen or more serials for their 
story paper, many serials for their boys' weekly, novel- 
ettes for their popular magazines, and a large number 
of short stories. For these, in the last eighteen years, 
they have paid him more than $35,000. 

Nor, during this time, was he writing for Harte & 
Perkins exclusively. He had other publishers and other 
sources of profit. 



As an instance of helpfulness that did not help, Ed- 
wards once attempted to come to the assistance of How- 
ard Dwight Smiley. Smiley wrote his first story, and 
Edwards sent it on to The Argosy with a personal let- 
ter to Mr. White. Such letters, at best, can do no more 
than secure for an unknown writer a little more con- 
sideration Ulan would otherwise be the case; they will 
not warp an editor's judgment, no matter how warmly 
the new writer is recommended. The story came back 
with a long letter of criticism and with an invitation 
for Smiley to try again. He tried and tried, perhaps a 
dozen times, and always the manuscript was returned to 
the patient Smiley by the no less patient editor. At last 
^liky wrote a story about a tramp who became en- 
tangled with a cyclone. The "whirler," it seems, had 
already picked up the loose odds and ends of a farm 
yard, along with a churnful of butter. In order to es- 
cape from the cyclone, Smiley's tramp greased himself 
with the butter from the chum and slid out of the em- 
brace of the twisting winds. ''Chuck it,** said Edwards ; 
"I'm surprised at you, Smiley." Smiley did "chuck it"— 
but into a mail-box, addressed to Mr. White, and Mr. 
White "chucked" a check for $12 right back for it! 
Whereupon Smiley chuckled inordinately — and came no 
more to Edwards for advice. 



37 



V. 

NICKEL THRILLS AND 

DOLLAR SHOCKERS. 

The word ''sensational'' as applied to fiction has been 
burdened witii an opprobrium which does not rightfully 
belong to it. Ignorance and prejudice and hypocrisy 
have conspired to defame a very worthy word. 

Certain good but misguided people will turn shud- 
deringly from a nickel novel and complacentiy look for 
thrills in a *1)est seller." Often and often the *T)est 
seller*' is to be had for 95 cents or $1 at the department 
stores. Not infrequently it spills more blood than the 
nickel thriller, but the blood is spilled on finer paper, 
and along with it are idealized pictures of heroine and 
hero done by the best artists. 

As a matter of course the dollar dreadful is better 
done. The author probably took six months or a year 
to do it, and if it is well advertised and proves a success 
he reaps a modest fortune. On the other hand, the nickel 
novel is written in three days or a week and brings the 
author $50. Why shouldn't the dollar book show a high- 
er grade of craf tmanship ? But is it less vicious than 
the novel that sells for five cents ? To draw the matter 
still finer, is either form of fiction vicious? 

If we turn to Webster and seek a definition of ''sensa- 
tional" we find : ''Suited or intended to excite tempor- 
arily great interest or emotion; melodramatic; emo- 
tional." 

This does not mean that sensational writing is vicious 
writing. It is wrong to classify as vicious or degrading 

2» 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

the story of swift action and clean ethics, or to compare 
it with that prurient product of the slums which deals 
with problems of sex. 

The tale that moves breathlessly but logically, that 
is built incident upon incident to a telling climax with 
the frankly avowed purpose to entertain, that has no 
questionable leanings or immoral affiliations — such a tale 
speeds innocently an idle hour, diverts pleasantly the 
harrassed mind, freshens our zeal for the duties of life, 
and occasionally leaves us with higher ideals. 

We are all dreamers. We must be dreamers before 
we are doers. If some of the visions that come to us in 
secret reverie were flaunted in all their conceit and in- 
consistency before the world, not one of us but would 
be the butt of the world's ridicule. And yet, out of 
these highly tinted imaginings springs the impulse that 
carries us to higher and nobler things. 

A difference in the price of two commodities does 
not necessarily mark a moral difference in the commod- 
ities themselves. The Century Magazine sells for 35 
cents, while The Argosy sells for 10 cents. You will be 
told that The Century is "high class" and with a distinct 
literary flavor, perhaps that it is more elevating. Even 
so ; yet which of these magazines is doing more to make 
the world really livable? Ask the newsdealer in your 
town how many Centuries he sells, and how many 
Argosies. 

Readers are not made for the popular magazines, 
but the popular magazines are made for the people. 
Unless there was a distinct and insistent demand for 
this sort of entertainment, so many all-story magazines, 
priced at a dime, could not exist. 

39 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

Nickel thrillers cater largely to a juvenile dieatde. 
Taking them by and large — ^therc are a few exceptions, 
of course — ^they are as worthy of readers as the dime 
magazines; and many a serial in a dime magazine has 
been republi^ed in doth and made into a ''best seller/''^ 

Why is it that, if a lad in his teens robs a jewdry 
store and is apprehended, almost invariably the news- 
paper report has a bundle of nickel libraries found in his 
pocket ? Why a nickel library and not a "ydlow" news- 
paper? 

The standard of judgment which places a nickel 
novel in the heart-side pocket of the young degenerate, 
harks back to a period when "yellow-back" literature 
was really vicious ; it is a judgment by tradition, unsup- 
ported by present-day facts. The world moves, and as 
it moves it grows constantly better. Reputable publish- 
ers of cheap fiction have elevated the character of their 
output until now some of the weekly stories they publish 
are really admirable ; in many instances they are classics. 

A few years ago, at a convention of Sunday School 
teachers at Asbury Park, N. J., a minister boldly praised 
the ''Diamond Dick" stories. He dedared that while 
action rattled through the pages of these tales like bul- 
lets from a Catling, he had found nothing immoral in 
them, nothing suggestive, nothing to deprave. The law- 
less received their just reward and virtue emerged tri- 
umphant. It was his thought that a few "Diamond 
Dick" stories might, with benefit, take the place, in Sun- 
day Sdiopl libraries, of the time-honored book in which 

* ''Dan Quixote," for Infltance published in The AU-Stoir 
Mm^maOmmp and repulblished ae "The Braee Bowl." 

40 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



the boy goes a-fishing on Sunday and falls into the 
river. 

One of the ''Frank Merriwell" stories tdls of a sen- 
sitive, shrinking lad at an academy who was hazed into 
a case of pneumonia from which he died. The hero 
breaks the news of the boy's death to his widowed 
mother and comforts her in her bereavement From 
beginning to end the story is told with a sympathy, and 
such a thorough understanding of boy-nature, that the 
hold on the juvenile reader is as strong as the theme 
is uplifting. 

This is not "trash.** It is literature sold at a price 
which carries it everywhere, and the result is untold 
good. 

The fact remains, however, that not every publisher 
of nickel novels has so high a standard. The paternal 
eye, in overseeing the fiction of the young, must be dis- 
criminating. Blood-and-thunder has had its day; but, 
if the rising generation is not to be a race of molly- 
coddles, care must be exercised in stopping short of the 
other extreme. 

The life of today sets a pattern for the fiction of to- 
day. The masses demand rapid-fire action and good red 
brawn in their reading matter. Their awakened moral 
sense makes possible the muck-raker; and when they 
weary of the day's evil and the day's toil, it is their habit 
to divert themselves with pleasant and exciting reading. 
And it must be CLEAN. 



41 



VI. 

MAKING GOOD 

BY HARD WORK. 

With the beginning of the year 1894 Edwards was 
learning the knack of the nickel novel and its ten-cent 
brother, and making good with his New York publishers. 
During 1893 the work he turned in was of fair quality, 
but he was not satisfied with that and labored to im- 
prove. Each succeeding story came nearer and nearer 
the high mark. Believing that whatever is worth doing 
is worth doing well, he was constantly asking himself, 
"How can I make my next story better than the one I 
have just finished?" The publishers helped him. Every 
manuscript submitted was read personally by Mr. Per- 
kins, and brought a letter dissecting the story and stating 
which incidents were liked, and why, and which inci- 
dents were not liked, and why. Edwards feels that he 
can never be sufficiently grateful to Mr. Perkins for 
this coaching in the gentle art of stalking a reader's 
elusive interest 

Had Edwards remained a paymaster in the. employ 
of the contracting firm, he would have received $1,200 
for his services in 1893. He severed his connection 
with his paymaster's salary in June, and at the end of 
the year his Fiction Factory showed these results: 

4 Five-Cent Library stories at $50 each $ aoo. 

I Juvenile serial 100. 

I Juvenile serial 75. 

13 Ten-Cent Library stories at $100. each 130a 

I Serial for Saturday Night iSa 

Total $ 1825. 

42 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



In other words, Edwards had taken out of his Fic- 
tion Factory $625 more than his salary as paymaster 
would have amounted to for the year. He felt vastly 
relieved, and his wife laughingly fell back on her 
woman's prerogative of saying "I told you so." This 
was a good beginning, and Edwards felt sure that he 
would be able to do even better during 1894. He was 
coming along splendidly with the Ten-Cent Library 
work. On Jan. 30 Mr. Perkins paid this tribute to his 
growing powers: 

"I have just finished reading your story, 'Walton's Double," 
which I find to be as good as anything you have given us. I 
must compliment irou upon the varied incident whidi you cram 
into these stories, of a nature that is well suited to them.** 

It was Edwards* custom to forward a Ten-Cent Lib- 
rary story every two weeks, and there were montfis in 
which he wrote three stories, taking ten days for each 
one. As these stories were 40,000 words in length, 
three in thirty days were equivalent to 120,000 words. 

During 1893 he wrote his stories twice: first a 
rough draft and then the printer's copy. In 1894 he be- 
gan making his first copies clean enough for the com- 
positor. Had he not done this he could never have ac- 
complished such a large amount of work. 

On April 10, when ever3rthing was going swimmingly 
and he was taking in $300 a month for the library work, 
he was brought up short in his career of prosperity. Mr. 
Perkins wrote him to finish the story upon which he 
was engaged and then to stop the library work until fur- 
ther orders. It had been decided to use ''re-prints" in 
the series. This could very easily be done as the Library 
had been published for years and some of the earlier 
stories could be brought out again without injuring the 

43 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



sale. The letter, which was a profound disappointment 
to Exiwards, dosed as follows: 

1 regret die necessity of curtailing your work, for I am en- 
tirely satisfied- with it» and if we did not find it necessary to 
adopt the measure referred to above, with a view to decreasing 
expenses dnring the swnmer months and dull season, I should 
have wished to have you continue right along. I have no doubt 
that you will be able to find a place for your materiid in the 
meantime.** 

This fell upon Edwards like a bolt from a clear sky. 
He b^;an to regret his ''paymaster crutch" and to 
imagine dire things. He had been giving his time almost 
exclusively to Harte & Perkins, and had lost touch with 
publications for which he had been writing previous to 
1893. Where, he asked himself, was he to place his 
material in the meantime? 

There is little sentiment in business. Harte ft Per- 
kins, whenever they find a line of work is not paying, 
will cut it off at an hour's notice, by telegraph if neces- 
sary. The man receiving the telegram, of course, can 
only make the best of it This is a point which Edwards 
has always disliked about the work for publishers of this 
class of fiction: the writer, no matter how prosperous 
he may be at any given time, is always in a state of glor- 
ious tmcertainty. 

But Edwards fell on his feet. It so happened that 
he had sent to Harte & Perkins, some time before, 
copies of Saturday Night containing two of his stories. 
He had done this in the attempt to. prove to them that 
he could write for The Weekly Guest, their story paper. 
This little incident shows how important it is for a 
J writer to get as many anchors to windward as possible. 

Eight days after being cut off from the library worE, 
Edwards received a letter from Mr. Harte. Mr. Per- 

44 



I 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



kins had left New York on business, but had turned over 
the printed work in Saturday Night for Mr. Harte's in- 
spection before leaving. Mr. Harte wrote, in part : 

"I like your work in Saturday Night, and think we shall be 
able to give jou a commission for a Weekly Guest story, pro- 
vided you can lend yourself successfully to our suggestions as to 
style, etc., and give us permission to publish under any of the 
pen names we use in the office. 

We want a story of ^e Stella Edwards type. We send you 
to-day one or two samples of the class of work desired, so that 
yon may be able to see just what it is. If you can do the work, 
we shall be pleased to send you a title and plot, with synopsis. 
Yon can then write us two installments for a trial, and, if sat- 
isfactory, I have no doubt we could arrange to give you a quan- 
tity of work in this line. 

I feel, after reading the samples you submitted, that you will 
be Me to meet our requirements in this class of story. The 
two stories we send you are the work of a masculine pen, and 
though not so easy to lose one's identity in literary work, this 
dass of story does not seem to present the ordinary difficulties ; 
at least, that is the testimony of our authors who have tried it." 

Edwards was booked to attempt a gushing Idve story, 
to follow a copy and make it appear as though a woman 
had done the writing! Quite a jump this, from a rapid- 
fire Ten-Cent Library story for young men to a bit of 
sentimental fiction for young women. However, he 
went at it, and he went at it with a determination to 
make good. It was either that or go paymastering 
again. 

On April 24 he received title, S3mopsis and plot of 
''Bessie, the Beautiful Blind Girl," and began charging 
himself with superheated sentiment preparatory to be- 
ginning his work. The popular young lady authoress, 
"Stella Edwards," whose portrait in a decollete gown 
had been so often flaunted in the eyes of "her*' public, 
was a myth. The "stuff" supposedly written by the 
charming "Stella Edwards" was ground out by men who 

45 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



were versatile enough to befool women readers, with a 
feminine style. Edwards, it transpired, was able to do 
this successfully for a time, but ultimately he failed to 
round off the rough comers of a style too decidedly 
masculine for "Miss Edwards." But this is anticipating. 
On May 3 he had sent the two trial installments, and 
from New York came the word : 

''We like the two openiajg: installments of 'Bessie, the Beau- 
tiful Blhid GirL' The style is good, the action brisk and sensa- 
tional and of a curiosity-arousing character. 

It is our belief that you are capable of presenting a desir- 
able variation from the former Stdla Edwards' stories, by in- 
troducing romantic incidents of a novel and more exalted ctiar- 
acter. 

In most of the other Stella Edwards' yams there was little 
plot and the action was rarely varied. The action comprised the 
pursuit and capture, the recapture and loss of the heroine, she 
being constantly whirled, like a shuttle-cock, from the hero to 
the villian, then to the female villian, then back again to the 
hero for a few tantalizing moments, and so on to the end. 

You can readily improve upon this by introducing scenes a 
little more fresh, and far more interesting. 

It is about time for Stella to improve, and we believe you 
are just the man to make her do better work. 

Go on with the story and force our readers to exclaim, 
*Well, that* s the best story Stella has written !' " 

While Edwards was deep in the sorrows of "Bessie, 
the Beautiful Blind Girl," he received from his publish- 
ers on May 10 orders which hurled him headlong into 
another "Stella Edwards" yam. 

''Owing to a change in our publishing schedule of Guest 
itoriei, it will be necessary to anticipate the issue of 'Bessie, the 
Beautiful Blind Girl' by anodier story of the same type, sixteen 
inHtallments, same as the one you are now working on. The 
title of this new story will be 'The Bicjrcle Belle,' and will deal 
with the bicycle as the matter of central interest in the first in- 
stallment or two. I send you a synopsis of the story prepared by 
one of our editors. This will simply give you an idea of one 
way of developing the theme. It does not, however, suit our 
plans, and we will ask you to invent something quite different" 

46 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Always and ever Harte & Perkins kept their fingers 
on the pulse of their reading pubilc. The safety bicycle 
was the fashion, in those days, and Harte & Perkins 
were usually first to exploit a fashion or a fad in their 
story columns. Whenever they had a story with a par- 
ticularly popular and striking theme, it was their habit 
to flood the country with sample copies of The Weekly 
Guest, breaking off a generous installment of the serial 
in such a breathless place that the reader was forced to 
buy succeding issues of the Guest in order to get the rest 
of the story. So that is what the change in their pub- 
lishing schedule meant. They wanted to boom the circu- 
lation of the Guest with a bicycle story. 

Edwards shelved Bessie the beautiful at the 7th in* 
stallment and threw himself into the tears, fears and 
chivalry of "The Bicycle Belle." This was on May 12. 
Three days later, on May 15, he forwarded two install- 
ments of the bicycle story for Harte & Perkins' inspec- 
tion. On May 16, before these installments had reached 
the publishers, Edwards was requested as follows: 

"As we shaU not be able to begin, in the Guest, your story, 
'Bessie, the Beautiful Blind Girl,' until after January the first, 
next, it will be well to change the scene to a winter setting.This 
can be very easily done in the two installments that we have on 
hand, if you will make a note of it and keep it up for the balance 
of the story. In the first installment we will show the girl 
leaping into the river with a few cakes of ice floating about, 
and in the scene where she is expelled from the house there will 
be plenty of snow. It will make a more effective picture and be 
more seasonable for the story." 

More trouble! Harte & Perkins had two install- 
ments, and did not seem to know that Edwards had five 
more installments on hand, pending the completion of 
the bicycle yarn. But he was ready to turn summer into 

47 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



winter, or day into night, in order to make good. On 
May i8 he received a report on the two instalhnents of 
the bicycle story. 

The two instaUments of The Bicycle Belle' have been read 
and approved by our editor, who says that the story opeas very 
well, with plenty of animated action, briefly yet graphically pic- 
tured. You seem to have caught our idea exactly, and we would 
be pleased to have jrou go ahead with the story, finishing it be- 
fore you again take up 'Bessie, the Beautiful Blhid GirL' " 

On June 3 Edwards sent instaUments three to six- 
teen of the bicycle story, which was the complete manu- 
script. Ten days later he was informed: 

" 'The Bicycle Belle' is crowded with dramatic action and is 
just what we want In the next it would be well to have a little 
more of the female element just to demonstrate that 'Stella Ed- 
wards' is up-to-date." 

None the less pleasant was this news, contained in a 
letter dated June 18: 

"We have placed to your credit, upon our books, the sum of 
three hundred dollars in payment for 'The Bicycle Belle,' which 
will be the figure for all this class of stories from your pen 
which are accepted for Thg Weekly Guest" 

Up to that time this was the most money Edwards 
had ever received for a serial story, and very naturally 
be felt elated. Under date of June 20 he wrote Harte 
& Perkins and told them that he was planning a trip East 
as soon as he had finished with "Bessie, the Beautiful 
Blind Girl." He received a cordial invitation from the 
publishers to come on as soon as possible as they had 
something which they particularly wanted him to do for 
them. 

The story of the blind girl was forwarded on June 
30. A flaw was discovered in it and several instalhnents 
were returned for correction — ^not a serious flaw, indeed, 
but one which necessitated a little revision. The revision 
made, the story passed at once to acceptance. 

48 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



In July Edwards was in New York and called 
personally upon Harte & Perkins. He found them pleas- 
ant and capable gentlemen— all that his fancy had pic- 
tured them through months of correspondence. Inas- 
much as it was Edwards' first visit to l^e metropolis, he 
studied the city with a view to using it in some of his 
fiction. 

The special work which Mr. Harte wanted Edwards 
to do for the firm was a stoiy of which he gave the sali- 
ent features. It was to be written in the best Archibald 
Qavering Gunter style. 

As Edwards had imitated successfully the mythical 
"Stella Edwards/* he was now confronted with the more 
trying task of imitating the style of a popular living 
author. He read Gunter from "Barnes of New Yoric" 
down; and then, when completely saturated with him, 
turned off two installments of "The Brave and Fair*' 
and sent them on. He was visiting in Michigan, at the 
time, and a letter under date of August 20, reached him 
while he was still in that state. 

"I have just finished reading the two installments of 'The 
Brave and Fair.' I think jou have made a very good opening 
hideed It rtads smoothly and seems to me to be very much in 
Gtmter's lis^t narrative style, which is what we are after. It 
remains to be seen whether you can get as close to Gunter in 
what might be called his tragedy vein as opposed to the comedy 
vein, which you have successftilly worked up in these two in- 
stallments." 

"The Brave and Fair," going forward to the publish- 
ers piece by piece, seemed to arouse their enthusiasm. 
"We have read up to installment eight. It is fine 1 Full 
of heroic action! Bristling with exciting scenes!" 
When the completed manuscript was in the publishers' 

49 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



hands, on October 20, there came another compliment- 
ary letter. 

" 'The Brave and Fair* bristled with exciting action to the 
close. 

The best incidents in it are those descriptive of Chub Jones' 
heroic self-sacrifice. In our opinion, this stands out as the gem 
of the story, because it makes the reader's heart bound with ad- 
miration for the little hero.** 

Hundreds of thousands of sample copies of The 
Weekly Guest, with first chapters of this story, were 
scattered all over the land. Later, the book was issued 
in paper covers. Harte & Perkins paid the author $500 
for the story, then ordered another of the same type for 
which he was given $450. 

These stories were written under a nom de plume 
which Harte & Perkins had copyrighted. The nom de 
plume was their property and could not be appropriated 
by any other publisher. Edwards wrote three of the 
yams, and a friend of his wrote others. 

All the year Edwards had been patted on the back. 
On Dec. 14 came a blow between the eyes. He had 
been commissioned to write another "Stella Edwards" 
rhapsody, but was overconfident and did not take time 
to surround himself with the proper "Stella Edwards" 
atmosphere. Two installments went forward, and this 
letter came back: 

"I have just finished reading Two Hearts Against the 
World.' I regret to say that the story will not do, and it would 
be as well for you not to attempt to remodel it. In other words, 
the way you are handling the subject is not satisfactory to us 
and is not a question of minor detail. We shall be obliged to 
give this work into other hands to do. The story, as far as it 
goes, is wildly improbable and has a lack of cohesion in the in- 
cident I think you wrote it hurriedly, and without mature 
thought These stories have to seem probable even if they deal 
with unusual events." 

SO 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



There was bitterness in that, not so much because 
Edwards had lost $300 but because he had failed to 
make good. His pride suffered more than his pocket. 
Later, however, he wrote some more "Stella Edwards" 
stories for Harte & Perkins and they were highly 
praised ; but that type of fiction was not his forte. 

The year 1894 closed with Harte & Perkins giving 
Edwards a chance at a new five-cent weekly they were 
starting. It was merely a shift from The Weekly Guest 
back to the libraries again. 

His work for Harte & Perkins, during the year, 

showed as follows: 

ID TenrCent Libraries at $100 each $ 1000. 

Two "Stella Edwards" stories at $300 each.... 600. 

*Thc Brave and Fair" 500. 

"The Man from Montana" 450. 

2 Five-Cent Libraries at $50 each 100. 

I Juvenile serial 100. 

Total $2,750. 

The work tabulated above approximates 850,000 
words, and takes no account of work sold to other pub- 
lishers. By industry alone Edwards had secured a fair 
income. 



W. Bert Foster, a friend of Edwards', who for 
^en^-five years has kept a story-mill of his own busily 
grinding with splendid success, nas this to say about a 
slip he once made in his early years: 

"When I was a young writer I sold a story to a ju- 
venile ps^r. It was published. And not until the boys 
began to write in about it did either the editor or I dis- 
cover that I had my hero dying of thirst on a raft in 
Lake MichiganI" 



SI 



vn. 

INSPIRATION 
ALIAS INDUSTRY. 

Jack London advises authors not to wait for in^ira- 
tion but to ''go after it with a dub/' Bravo I It is not 
intended, of course, to lay violent hands on the Happy 
Idea or to knock it over with a bludgeon. Mr. London 
realizes that, nine times out of ten, Happy Ideas are 
drawn toward industry as iron filings toward a magnet 
The real secret lies in making a start, even though it 
promises to get you nowhere, and inspiration will take 
care of itself. 

There's a lot of ''fiddle-faddle*' wrapped up in that 
word "inspiration.'' It is the last resort of the lazy 
writer, of the man who would rather sit and dream than 
be up and doing. If the majority of writers who depend 
upon fiction for a livelihood were to wait for the spirit 
of inspiration to move them, the sheriff would happen 
along and tack a notice on the front door — ^while the 
writers were still waiting. 

More and more Edwards' experience, and the exper- 
ience of others which has come under his observation, 
convinces him that inspiration is only another name for 
industry. When he was paymaster for the firm of con- 
tractors, he went to the office at 8 o'clock in the morn- 
ing, took half an hour for luncheon at noon, and left for 
home at half-past 5. When he broke away from office 
routine, he promised himself that he would give as much, 
or more, of his time to his Fiction Factory. 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

What th^e feared was that ideas would fail to come, 
and that he would pass the time sitting idly at his type- 
writer. In actual practice, he found it almost uncanny 
how the blank white sheet he had run into his machine in- 
vited ideas to cover it After five, ten or fifteen min- 
utes of following false leads, he at last hit upon the right 
scent and was off at a run. With every leap his enthus- 
iasm grew upon him. A bright bit of dialogue would 
evoke a chudde, a touch of pathos would bring a tear, an 
unexpected incident shooting suddenly out of the tangled 
threads would fill him with rapture, and for the logical 
but unexpected climax he reserved a mood like Caesar's, 
returning from the wars and celebrating a triumph. 

In the ardor of his work he forgot the flight of time. 
He balked at leaving his tjrpewriter for a meal and went 
to bed only when drowsiness interfered with his flow of 
thought. 

Whether he was writing a Five-Cent Library, a serial 
story or a novel which he hoped would bring him fame 
and fortune, the same delight filled him whenever he 
achieved a point which he knew to be worth while. And 
whenever such a point is achieved, my writer friend, 
there is something that rises in your soul and tells you of 
it in words that never lie. 

No matter what you are writing, unless you can thrill 
to every detail of excellence in what you do, unless you 
can worry about the obscure sentence or the unworthy 
incident until they are sponged out and recast, it is not 
too much to say that you will never succeed at the writ- 
ing game. Love the work for its own sake and it will 

53 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



bring its inspiration and its reward ; look upon it as a 
grind and melancholy failure stalks in your wake. 

[There can be no inspiration without industry, and no 
industry without inspiration. Start your car on the bat- 
teries of industry and it will soon be running on the mag- 
neto of inspiration. Drive yourself to your work, and 
presently interest will be aroused and your eager ener- 
gies will need a curb instead of a spur. 

Edwards has written two 30,000-word stories a week 
for months at a time; he has written one 30,000- word 
story and one 40,000-word serial in one week; he has be- 
gun a Five Cent Library story at 7 o'clock in the morn- 
ing and worked the clock around, completing the manu- 
script at 7 the next morning ; and he has done other 
things that were possible only because industry brought 
inspiration, and inspiration takes no account of time. 

Edwards knows a writer of short stories who is like 
a crazy man for days while he is frantically groping for 
an idea. When the idea comes, he figuratively sweats 
blood for a week in pulling it through his typewriter; 
and then, when the story is in the mails, he takes to his 
bed for a week from physical exhaustion. Result: 
Three weeks, one story, and anywhere from $50 to $75. 

[He is conscientious, W^h?^ *"^^^^M ? , ^!'?S f' ^^^^^^ 
of storming through tUe house and tearing lus" hair while 
i the idea eludes him, he should roll in a fresh sheet, sit 
i calmly down in front of the keys, look out of the window 
^ or around the room and start off with the first object 
, that appeals to him. 

r 

j There are writers who will have a Billikin for inspir- 
' ation, or some other fetich that takes the place of a Billi- 

54 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

kin. Edwards has an elephant tobacco-jar that has oc- 
casionally helped him. Sometimes it is a pipeful of the 
elephant's contents, and scmietimes it is merely a long 
look at the elephant that starts the psychology to work- 
ing. 

Of course it isn't really the Billikin, or the elephant, 
or the tobacco that does the trick. They merely enable 
us to concentrate upon the work in hand : from them we 
gather hope that work will produce results, so we get 
busy and results come. 

The m ain thing is to break the s ^ackH^ff, Qf togJIlCS? 
and_ begi n o urlabg rs; then, after that, to forget *that we 
arela^nng m the sheer joy of creation with which our 
labor inspires us. 



New York, Sept 2, 191 1. 
My dear Mr. Edwards : 

You fairly have me stumped. With the greatest plea- 
sure in the world I would give you what you ask for 
your book, but I am not certain that I can recall any 
humorous anecdotes; and as for^'quips," I look the word 
up and discover that it means: "A sneering or mocking 
remark; gibe; taunt." And I am afraid I am not equal 
to evolving any of these .... All I can recall now is 
that in my early days an editor of the New York Herald 
wanted to kick me down the editorial stairs because 
I asked pay for amusement notes they had been print- 
ing for nothing. I fled, leaving my last Ms. behind 
me — ^which they also printed gratis. Now this wasn't 
humorous to anybody at the time, and if there was any 
'quip/ that editor uttered it, and I don't remember now 
just the language he used. 

Very truly yours, 

Matthew White, Jr., 
Editor The Argosy. 



55 



VIII. 

THE WOLF ON 

THE SKY-LINE. 

For Edwards, the year 1895 dawned in a blaze of 
prosperity and went out in the gathering shadows of im- 
pending disaster. 

Spring found him literally swamped with orders, and 
he tried the experiment of hiring, a young man stenog- 
rapher and typist to assist him. The young man was an 
expert in his line and proved so efficient an aide that 
Edwards hired another who was equally proficient. 
Two stenographers failing to help him catch up with his 
flood of orders, he secured a third. 

One assistant put in his time copying manuscripts and 
cataloguing clippings, to another the library wcu'k was 
dictated, and the third was employed on "Stella Ed- 
wards" material. 

Edwards was versatile, and he experienced no diffi- 
culty in passing from one class of work to another. He 
was able to chronicle the breathless adventures of the 
hero of the Five-Cent Library to one stenographer, then 
turn to the other and dictate two or three chapters of a 
serial of the class written by Laura Jean Libby, and then 
fill in the gaps between dictation with altogether differ* 
ent work on his own machine. 

Although Edwards kept these three stenographers 
for several months, and although he has since frequently 
availed himself of the services of an amanuensis, yet he 
is free to confess that he doubts the expediency of such 

56 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

help. Successful dialect cannot be wrapped up in a 

stenographer's ''pothooks/' and so much dialect was used 
in the library stories that the young man at work on them 
had to familiarize himself with the contorted forms and 
write them down from memory. It took him so long to 
do thisy and required so much of Edwards' time making 
corrections, that the profit on his work was disappoint- 
ing. 

With such an office force grinding out copy, during 
the early months of 1895 the Fiction Factory was a very 
busy place. During January and February the cash re^ 
turns amounted to $1,500. This, Edwards discovered 
later, was no argument in favor of stenographer assis- 
tance, for he has since, working alone, earned upward of 
$1,000 in a month. 

In February Edwards was requested by Harte & Per- 
kins to submit a story for a new detective library which 
they were starting, and of which they were very choice. 
The work was as different as possible from the two or 
three detective yams Edwards had written in 1893. He 
wrote and submitted the story, and Mr. Perkins' criti- 
cisms are given below by way of showing how carefully 
the stories were examined. The letter from which the 
excerpt is taken was written Feb. 13, 1895. The m5rthi- 
cal detective, who has become known throughout the 
length and breadth of the land, shall here be referred to 
as "Joe Blake." 

"There is one point to which I would call your attention. 
On page 5, Chapter II opens in this way: 'A young man to see 
Dr. Reynolds; no card/ Joe Blake, otherwise *Dr. Reynolds,' 
told the boy to show the visitor in. The place was Chicago. 
Scene in room in prominent hotel the second day after Joe 

57 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Blake had had an tntenriew with Abner Larkiii, 9 o'clock in the 
evening.' ..^)*< 

This is too trite and not easily expressed. Such references 
to time, place, etc, impress the reader with the fact that he is 
reading a romance and not a real story of Joe Blake's experi- 
ences. This particular point should be kept in mind. We want 
these stories to appear as natural as possible. 

In the opening of the installment, where Mr. Larldn pre- 
sents himself to Joe, jrou have duplicate the common-place 
method of most writers. There should be more originality in 
the way Joe Blake's attention is called to various cases and not a 
continual repetition of calls at his office, whidi, though natursd 
enough, become tiresome to the reader. In this same opening 
there is not enough detective flavor, and here, as well as in 
other places, Joe does not appear to be the man of authority, 
which he is usually found to be. These are little things, but I 
believe if you vrill take care of them they will he^ the story 
greatly." 

This will illustrate the care with which Harte & Per- 
kins looked over the manuscripts submitted to them, to 
the end that they might be made to reflect their ideas of 
what good manuscripts shotdd be. If a writer could not 
do their woiic the wJly^ey wanted it done he was not 
long in getting \Cvsf^ona^. In the case of the story men- 
tioned above, it was returned, rewritten, and made to 
conform to Mr. Perkins' ideas. 

On Jan. 9 Harte & Perkins had written Edwards : 

"It is more than apparent that the library business is not 
very flourishing, and hereafter we shall only be able to pay $40 
for these stories. I think this will be satisfactory to you, for I 
know you can do this class of work very rapidly." 

This meant a loss of $10 a week, and Edwards en- 
deavored to make up for it by increasing his output. 
Particularly he wanted a chance to write another '^Stella 
Edwards" story, just to show the firm that he could do 
the work. Mr. Harte gave him an order for the serial* 
stating that the new story was to follow "The Bicycle 

58 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Belle/* then running in The Weekly Guest. The story 
was to be in twelve installments of 5,250 words each, to- 
talling some 63,000 words. For this Edwards was to 
receive $200. This hint was given him : 

'Have plenty of romance, without too great extravagance, 
and make sure of at least one wedding and that in the beginning 
of the story." 

With the order came a picture which it was desired 
to use in illustratit^ the opening installment. Edwards 
was to write the installment around the picture. He 
completed the story, called it "Little Bluebell," and re- 
ceived the following commendation after two install- 
ments had been received and read: 

*!, have just finished reading the first two installments of 
your story, 'Little Bluebell,' and I have to say that the same is 
entirely satisfactory, unquestionably the best thing you have 
given us in this line of work.'' 

Although he was turning out Five-Cent Libraries, 
Stella Edwards serials, short sketches for Puck and stor- 
ies for other publishers than Harte & Perkins, Edwards 
wasi constantly on the alert for more work in order to 
keep his stenographers busy. He asked Mr. Perkins for 
orders for the Ten-Cent Library, and for juvenile serials 
for the boys' paper. He was allowed to send in some 
"Gentlemen Jim" stories for the dime publication. The 
pay was not munificent, however, being only $50 for 37,- 
000 words. 

The *TLittle Bluebell" story was followed by another 
''Stella Edwards'' serial entitled "A Weird Marriage." 
This yarn hit the bull's-eye with a bang. In fact, it was 
said to be the best thing ever done by "Stella Edwards." 
And then, after scoring these two successive hits, Ed- 
wards tripped on a third story called "Beryl's Lovers," 

59 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

and he fell so hard that it was ten years before the firm 
ever asked him to do any more writing in that line. 

In the Fall of 1895 Edwards discovered that he had 
been working too hard. A doctor examined his lungs, 
declared that he was threatened with tuberculosis and 
ordered him to the Southwest. In November he and his 
wife left Chicago, Edwards carrying with him his type- 
writer and a plentiful supply of tjrpewriter paper. He 
transformed a stateroom in the compartment sleeper into 
his Fiction Factory, finishing two installments of the 
ill-fated "Beryl's Lovers" while enroute. 

These installments, forwarded from Phoenix, Ari- 
zona, by express, went into a wreck at Shoemaker, 
Kansas, and were delivered to Harte & Perkins, torn and 
illegible, two weeks after the story had been taken over 
by another writer. Edwards filed a claim against the 
express company for $300, and then compromised for 
$50— all the express people were liable for by the terms 
of their receipt. 

From November, 1895, until April, 1896, Edwards was 
located on a ranch near Phoenix, Arizona, writing Five- 
Cent Libraries for Harte & Perkins and sketches and 
short stories for other publishers. His health was stead- 
ily declining, and he could bring himself to his work 
only by a supreme effort of the will and at the expense 
of much physical torture. In May, 1896, he was told 
that he must get farther away from the irrigated dis- 
tricts around Phoenix and into the arid hills. To this 
end he interested himself in a gold mine, and went East 
to form a company and secure the necessary capital to 
purchase and develop it. 

60 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



About the middle of July he returned to Phoenix, still 
writing but hoping for golden rewards from the mining 
venture which would ultimately make his writing less of 
a business and more of a pastime. 

ICs health continued to decline and he was ordered 

to give up writing entirely and exercise constantly in the 

open. He at once telegraphed Harte & Perkins to this 

effect. On Oct 13 they wrote : 

•Wc have heard nothing from you since receipt of your 
telegram to take all work out of your hands. This, of course, 
we attended to at once, but on 3rour account, as well as our own, 
we were very sorry to learn that you found it necessary to give 
up the work, and trust that the illness from which you are suf- 
fering will not be lasting If, in future, you should be able 

to write again, we shall try to find a place for jrour work." 

So the old firm and Edwards parted for a time. A 
few weeks proved the mining venture a failure, and $10,- 
000 which Edwards had put away out of the profits of 
his writingf had vanished — jsfone to make the failure mem- 
orable. Nor had his health returned. 

In some desperation, just before New Year's of '97, 
Mr. and Mrs. Edwards entrained for New York, Ed- 
wards pinning his hopes to Harte & Perkins. He had 
less than $100 to his name when he and his wife reached 
the metropolis. 

Otie hundred dollars will not carry a man and his 
wife very far in New York, even when both are in good 
health and the man can work. Ambition alone kept Ed- 
wards alive and gave him hope for the future. 

The Factory out-put for 1895.: 

3 Five-Cent Libraries at $50 each $ 150. 

29 Five-Cent Libraries at $40 each 1160. 

2 Detective stories at $40 each 80. 

61 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



2 Ten-Cent Library stories at $50 each 100. 

little Bluebell," serial 20a 

'A Weird Marriage," 300. 



M 



$ 1990. 

Detroit Free Press, Contributions 22. 

Total $ 2012. 

For i8g6: 

24 Five-Cent Libraries at $40 each $ 960. 

Short fiction 71.50 

Total $ 1031.50 



For cold brutality perhaps the rejection slip worded 
as below is unequalled: 

We are sorry to return your paper, but you have writ- 
ten on it. 

Respectfully yours, 

The Editor. 



Before Mr. Karl Edwin Harriman, of The Red Book, 
had ventured into the editorial end of the writing trade, 
he wrote an article on an order from a certain Eastern 
magazine. Later, that magazine decided that it could not 
use the article, although it had been paid for, and, with 
Mr. Harriman's permission, turned it over to an agent to 
market elsewhere. 

The agent, not knowing Mr. Harriman had associated 
himself with a certain magazine, sent the manuscript to 
that publication, in the ordinary way. 

It was up to Mr. Harriman, then, to consider it in an 
editorial capacity. He was unable to purchase the man- 
uscript, and returned it to the agent with a reproof for 
having submitted such an article, and indicating that the 
author had a great deal to learn before he could feel 
justified in seeking a market among the best known 
magazines. 



63 



IX. 

RAW MATERIAL 

Where does the writer get his plot-germs, the raw 
material which he puts through the mill of his fancy and 
finally draws forth as a finished and salable product? 
Life is a thing of infinite variety, and the plot-germ is a 
thii^ of Life or it is nothing. Being a mere basic sug- 
gestion of the story, the germs must come from the 
author's experience, or from the experiences of others 
which have been brought to his attention. Unconsci- 
ously the germ lodges in his mind, and his ingenuity, 
handling other phases of existence, works out the com- 
pleted plot 

It follows that the richer an author's experience and 
the more ardent his imagination the better will be the 
plot evolved, providing his fine sense of values has been 
adequately cultivated. But no matter how adventurous 
and varied a personal experience, or how warm the 
fancy, or how highly cultivated the mind in its adapta- 
tion of fact to fiction, the experience of others com- 
pels attention if a writer's work is to be anything more 
than self-centered. 

Newspapers, chronicling the everyday events of hu- 
man existence, have not only suggested cotmtless suc- 
cessful plot-germs but have likewise helped in the round- 
ing out of the plot. An editor wrote Edwards, as long 
ago as March 30, 1893 : ''What we require in our stories 
is s<miething written up to date, with incidents new and 

63 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

original. The daily press is teeming with this raw ma- 
terial.'* This fact is universally recognized, so that very 
few authors neglect to avail themselves of this source 
of inspiration. 

As a case in point, a few years ago one noted author 
was accused of appropriating the work of another noted 
author. Plagiarism was seemingly proved by evoking 
the aid of the deadly parallel. Nevertheless the evidence 
was far from being conclusive. Each author had done 
no more than build a similar story upon the same news- 
paper clipping! Neither was in the wrong. No one 
writer has a monopoly of the facts of life, or of the 
right to use those facts as they filter through columns 
of the daily press. 

Fortunately for Edwards, he realized the- value of 
newspaper clippings very early in his writing career. 
Twenty-five years ago he b^;an to scissor and to put 
away those clippings which most impressed him. Until 
late in the year 1893 his clipping collection was either 
pasted in scrap-books or thrown loosely into a large 
box. During the winter of 1893 — 4 he fdt the necessity 
of having the raw material of his Factory stored more 
systematically. The services of an assistant were se- 
I cured and the work was begun. 

Large manila envelopes were used. The envelopes 
were lettered alphabetically, and each clipping was filed 
by title. On the back of each envelope was typed the 
title of its contents. 

This method was found to be wholly unsatisfactory. 
Frequent examination had given Edwards a fair work- 
ing knowledge of his thousands of clippings, but he was 

64 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



often obliged to go through a dozen or more envelopes 
before finding the particular article whose title had 
escaped him. 

In 1905 he bought a loose-leaf book and tried out a 
new system on an acctmiulation of several thousand 
magazines. This indexing was done in such a way as 
to suggest the character of the clipping (written in red), 
and the title of the article, the page number and number 
of the magazine (written in black). All the magazines 
had been ntmibered consecutively and placed on conven- 
ient shelves. The first page of "W," for instance, ap- 
peared as shown below : 

Washington "A Job in the Senate" 77i'3 

WUd Animal Story "The Rebellion of a Millionaire" 477-4 

Washington, Booker T, "Riddle of the Negro" 519-4 

White Cross "Work of the American W. C." 129-5 

Waitress "Diary of an Amateur W." 543-6 

Wall Street "The Shadow of High Finance" 336-8 

Woman Suffrage "Worlds Half-Citizens" 41 1-8 

Woman "How to Make Money" 495-9 

The above is only part of one of many pages of W's, 
and will serve to exemplify the advantages and disad- 
vantages of the system in practical use. For instance, 
if it was desired to find out something about Booker T. 
Washington, all that was necessary was to take down 
old magazine No. 4 and turn to page 519. 

This manifestly was an improvement over the old 
envelope method of indexing, but still left much to be 
desired. To illustrate, if Edwards wished to exhaust 
his material on Booker T. Washington it was necessary 
for him to hunt through all the pages under "W/* and 
then examine all the magazines containing the articles in 
which he was mentioned. It is patent that if the index* 
ing were properly done, every reference having to do 

65 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



with Booker T. Washington should follow a single refer- 
ence to him in the index; and, further, the various 
articles should be grouped together. 

Two years later, Edwards discarded the loose-leaf 
for the card system. This, he found, was as near per- 
fection as could be hoped for. 

His first step was to buy a number of strong box 
letter-files. These he niunbered consecutively, just as 
he had numbered the manila envelopes. Articles are cut 
from magazines, the leaves secured together with brass 
fasteners, and on the first page margin at the top are 
marked the file number and letter of compartment 
where the article belongs. Thus, if the article is kept 
out of the file for any length of time it can be readily 
returned to its proper place. Newspaper clippings are 
handled in precisely the same way. 

The card index has its divisions and sub-divisions. 
Cards indexing articles on various countries have a 
place under the general letter, and another place in the 
geographical section tmder the same letter. So with 
articles concerning Noted Personages, Astronomy, An- 
tiquities, etc. Below, for the benefit of any one who 
may wish to use the system, is reproduced a card f rcnn 
the file: 

ARMY, U. S. 

Hand Bill used to secure enlistments "A" 

Army Story "Knew It" "K" 

Army Story "A Philippine Romance" -P" 

is Ci 






Army Story "He is Crazy Jack" "C 

Army Story "Their Veiy Costly Meal" ''T 

Army Story "Siege of Bigbag" "S 

"Fighting Life in the Phillippines" •'F 

Pay of Soldiers "Young Man—" "Y" 2 

66 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



In this system the character of the material is first 
indicated, as Pay of Soldiers. If there is a title it fol- 
lows in quotation marks. Where the title suggests the 
character of the material sufficiently, the title comes 
first, in "quotes. ' ' Then follows the letter under which 
the article is filed, and the number of the file. Suppose 
it is desired to find out what soldiers of the United 
States' Army are paid for their services: File No. 2 
is removed from the shelf, opened at letter "Y" and the 
information secured under title beginning, "Young 
Man —r 

As a saver of time, and a guard against annoyance 
when fancies are running free, Edwards has found his 
card-index system for clippings almost ideal. 



A friend of Edwards' is what the comic papers call 
a "jokesmith." Recently he concocted the following: 

"You must be doing well," said Jones the merchant 
to Quill the writer, meeting him in front of his house. 
"You seem to be always busy, and you look prosperous." 

"So I am, Jones," answered Quill, "busy and prosper- 
ous. Come into the basement with me and I'll show you 
the secret of my prosperity." 

They decended into the basement and Quill rang up 
the curtain on a ragman weighing three big bags of re- 
jection slips. 

**My stories all come back," confessed Quill, trium- 
phantly, **and I get three cents a pound for the rejection 
slips that come with them." 

This, of course, was not much of a joke, but the pre- 
petrator sent it to Judge, Judge sent it back witii about 
twenty blank rejection slips inclosed by a rubber bard. 
On the top slip was written: "Here are some more. — Ed. 
Judger 



X. 

THE WOLF 
AT THE DOOR 

Perhaps very few men in this life escape a period as 
black and dispiriting as was the year 1897 for Edwards. 
If not in one way, then in another, it is the fate of a 
' man to be chastened and subdued so thoroughly, at least 
once in his career, that a livid rememberance of it re- 
mains always with him. Edwards has always been an 
optimist, but those blows of circumstance .of the year 
1897 found many weak places in the armor of his philo- 
sophy. 

In tangling and untangling the threads of a story 
plot Edwards had become tolerably proficient, but in 
straightening out the snarls Fate had made in his own 
life he was crushed with a feeling of abject helpless- 
ness. There is a vast difference, it seems, in dealing 
with the complications of others and those that beset our- 
selves. The impersonal attitude makes for keener an- 
alysis and wiser judgment. 

In a story, the poverty stricken hero and his wife 
may exist for a week on a loaf of bread, ten cents' worth 
of potatoes and a twenty-cent soup-bone ; but let the man 
who creates such a hero attempt to emulate his fictional 
fancies and stark realism plays havoc with the equation. 
The wolf at our own door is one sort of animal, and 
the wolf at our neighbor's is of an altogether different 
breed. 

68 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



The thermometer in Southern Arizona was "eighty 
in the shade" when Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, during the 
Christmas holidays, set their faces eastward. New York 
City, the shrine of so many pilgrims seeking prosperity, 
was their goal; and the metropolis, on that bleak New 
Year's Day that witnessed their arrival, was shivering 
in the grip of real, old-fashioned winter. The change 
from a balmy climate to blizzards and ice and a below- 
zero temperature brought Edwards to his bed with a 
vicious attack of rheumatism. For day's while the little 
fund of $100 melted steadily away, he lay helpless. 

The great city, in its dealings with impecunious 
strangers, has been painted in cruel colors. Edwards 
found this to be a mistake. On the occasion of their 
first visit to New York he and his wife had found quar- 
ters in a boarding house in Forty-fourth street. A 
pleasant landlady was in charge and the Edwards had 
won her friendship. 

Here, forming one happy family, were actors and 
actresses, a salesman in a down-town department store, 
a stenographer, a travelling man for a bicycle house, 
and others. All were cheerful and kindly, and took 
occasion to drop in at the Edwards' third floor front 
and beguile the tedious hours for the invalid. 

Fourteen years have brought many changes to Forty- 
fourth street between Broadway and Sixth avenue. The 
row of high-stoop brownstone "fronts" has that air of 
neglect which precedes demolition and the giving way 
of the old order to the new. The basement, where the 
pleasant landlady sat at her long table and smiled at the 
raillery and wit of "Beaney," and Sam, and "Smithy," 

6q 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



and Ruth, and Ina and the rest, has fallen sadly from 
its high estate. A laundry has taken possession of the 
place. And "Beaney," the light-hearted one who laughed 
at his own misfortunes and sympathized with the mis- 
fortunes of others, "Beaney" has gone to his long ac- 
count. A veil as impenetrable has fallen over the pleas- 
ant landlady, Sam, "Smithy," Ruth and Ina; and where- 
evcr they may be, Edwards, remembering their kind- 
ness to him in his darkest days, murmurs for each and 

all of them a fervent "God bless you!** 

Before he was compelled to take to his bed Edwards 
had called at the offices of Harte & Perkins. His inter- 
view with Mr. Perkins impressed upon him the fact that, 
once a place upon the contributors' staff of a big^ JEub?. 
fisHifig house is'reliniquished It is difiRctilt to regain. 
Othcf s had Jbeen^^ven the work whi ch Edwards ha< " ' 
ftjr three years. TKese others were turning in accept- 
able manuscripts and, in justice to them, Harte & Per- 
kins could not take the work out of their hands. Mr. 
Perkins, however, did give Edwards an order for four 
Five-Cent Libraries — ^stories to be held in reserve in 
case manuscripts from regular contributors failed to ar- 
rive in time. On Feb. ii he received a letter from the 
firm to the following effect: 

"When we wrote you day before -yesterday asking you to 
turn in four Fire-Cent Libraries before doing anything else in 
the Library line for us, we were under the impression that the 
gentleman who has been engaged upon this work for some time 
would not be able to turn the material in with usual regularity 
on accotmt of illness, but we hear from him today that he is 
now in better health, and will be able to keep up with the worV^ 
which he is very anxious to do, and somewhat jealous of having 
any other material in the series so long as he can fill the bill. 
On this account it will be well for you to stop work on the 

70 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



library. When you have completed the story on which 3rou are 
now engaged, turn your attention to the Ten-Cent Library 
vork, which we think you will be able to do to our satisfaction." 

This will illustrate the attitude which some authors 
assume toward the '"butter-in." All of a certain grist 
that comes to a publisher's mill must be their grist. If 
the mill ground for another, and found the product bet- 
ter than ordinary, the other might secure a "stand-in" 
that would threaten the prestige of the regular contrib- 
utor. 

In seeking to keep his head above water financially, 
Edwards attempted to sell book rights of "The Astrolo- 
ger,*' the serial published in 1891 in The Detroit Free 
Press. He had written, also. 66 pages of a present- 
tense Gunteresque story which he hoped would win 
favor as had his other stories in that style. This yam 
he called "Croesus, Jr." Both manuscripts were sub- 
mitted to Harte & Perkins. 

On Jan. 28, when the Edwards' exchequer was near- 
ly depleted, "Croesus, Jr.," was returned with this writ- 
ten message : 

"It might be said of the story in a way that it is readable, 
but it does not promise as good a story as we desire for this 
series. 'Most decidedly/ says the reader, 'it lacks originality, 
novelty and strength.* This criticism, which we consider en- 
tirely competent, must deter us from considering the story 
favorably." 

This was blow number one. Blow number two was 
delivered Feb. 3: 

"We have had your manuscript, 'The Astrologer,' examined, 
and the verdict is that it would not be suitable for any of our 
regular publications, and it is not in our line for book publica- 
tion. The reader states that it very humorous in parts but 
rather long drawn out We return manuscript." 

71 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

Two Five-Cent Libraries at $40 each were accepted 
and paid for; also four sketches written for a small 
magazine which Harte & Perkins were starting.* 

Although he grew better of his rheumatism, Edwards 
failed to improve materially in health, and late in March 
he and his wife returned to Chicago. They rented a 
modest flat on the North Side^ got their household ef- 
fects out of storage, and faced the problem of existence 
with a courage scarcely warranted by their circtmistances. 

Edwards was able to work only half a day. The re- 
mainder of the day he spent in bed with an alternation 
of chills and fever and a grevious malady growing upon 
him. During this period he tried syndicating articles in 
the newspapers but without success. He also wrote for 
Harte & Perkins a "Guest** serial, the order for which 
he had brought back with him from New York. He 
made one try for this by submitting the first few chap- 
ters and synopsis of story which he called "A Vassar 
Girl.'* These were returned to him as unsuitable. IJe 
then wrote seven chapters of a serial entitled, "A Girl 
from the Backwoods," and — ^with much fear and trem- 
bling be it confessed — sent them on for examination. 
Under date of July 8 this word was detumed: 

'The seven chapters of 'A Girl from the Backwoods' read 
very good, and we should like to have you finish the story, and 
should it prove satisfactory in its entirely, we should consider it 
an acceptable story." 

Here was encouragement at a time when encourage- 
ment was sorely needed. But how to keep the Factory 

*This magazine, by the way, which had an humble beginning, 
has grown into one of the high class "populars" and has a 
wide circulation. 

72 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

gofaig while the story was being finished was a difficult 
question. There were times when twenty-five cents had 
to procure a Sunday dinner for two; and there was a 
time when two country cousins arrived for a visit, and 
Edwards had not the half-dollar to pay an expressman 
for bringing their trunks from the station ! Pride, be it 
understood, was one of Edwards' chief assets. He had 
always been a regal spender, and his country cousins 
knew it. How the lack of that fifty-cent piece grilled his 
sensitive soul! 

It was during these trying times that the genius of 
Mrs. Edwards showed like a star in the heavy gloom. 
On next to nothing she contrived to supply the table, 
and the conjuring she could do with a silver dollar was 
a source of never-failing wonder to her husband. 

Edwards remembers that, at a time when there was 
not even car-fare in the family treasury, a check for 
$1.50 arrived in payment for a i,SOO-word story that had 
been out for several years. 

During the latter part of July the demand for money 
pending the completion of "A Girl from the Backwoods'* 
became so insistent, that Edwards wrote and submitted 
to Harte & Perkins a sketch for their magazine. It con- 
tained 1,232 words and was purchased on Aug. 3 for 
$6.16. 

**A Girl from the Backwoods" was submitted late in 
September, and was returned on Oct. 13 for a small 
correction. The following letter, dated Oct. 27, was re- 
ceived from the editor of the "Guest:" 

"The manuscript of 'A Girl from the Backwoods', also the 
correction which you have made, have been duly received. The 
correction is very satisfactory. 

73 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



In regard to your suggestion about the heroine's name being 
that of a well laiown writer, we would say that inasmuch as 
the name is rather appropriate and suits the character we do not 
tee that the lady who already bears it would in any way find 
fault with your use of it, and at present we think it may be 
allowed to stand." 

As showing Edwards' pecuniary distress, the follow- 
ing paragraph from a letter from Harte & Perkins, dated 
Oct. 28, may be given : 

"In response to your favor of the 19th and jrour tele- 
gram of yesterday, * we enclose you herewith our check for 
I200 in full for your story 'A Girl from the Backwoods/ 
This is the best price we can make you for this and other stories 
of this class from your pen, and it is a somewhat better one than 
we are now paying for similar material from other writers • 
We believe this will be satisfactory to you." 

The price was not saticfactory. Edwards and his 
wife had counted upon receiving at least $300 for the 
story, and they needed that amount sorely. A respect* 
ful letter at once went forward to Harte & Perkins, ap- 
pealing to their sense of justice and fairness, which Ed- 
wards had never yet known to fail him. On Nov. 3 

came an additional check for $100, and these words : 

"Replying to your favor of Nov. ist, at hand today, we beg 
to state that we shall, agreeably with your request and especially 
as you put it in such strong terms, ms^e the payment on 'A Girl 
from the Backwoods' $300. The story is much liked by our 
reader and we do think it is worth as much if not more than 
the Stella Edwards material which, however, in the writer's 
judgement was much overpaid. We shall take this into account 
when considering the acceptance of other stories from your 
pen, and while we do not say positively that we will not pay 
$300 for the next one, as we wrote you m our last letter this is 
a high price for this class of material and we will expect to pay 
you according to our views as to the value of the manuscript. ' 

The year closed with an order from Harte & Per- 
kins for another story of the Stella Edwards sort; a 

^Telegram sent on same day letter was received saying story 
was satisfactory. 

74 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



very dismal year indeed, and showing Factory returns as 
follows : 

Two Five-Cent Libraries at $4a $ 80.00 

Four magazine sketches at $10 40.00 

One magazine sketch 6.16 

'A Girl from the Backwoods," 300. 



u 



Total $426.16 

Perhaps, after all, this was not doing so badly; for 
during this year, and the year immediately following, 
Edwards was to discover that he had had one foot in the 
grave. But his fortu nes were at th eir lowest ebb. With 
1898 they ^ft to begm taking an upWHrU turn. — 



Some one said that some one else, by using Ignatius 
Donnelly's cryptogram, proved that the late Bill Nye 
wrote the Shakespeare plays. This, of course, is merely 
a reflection on liie cryptogram; BUT if Shakespeare's 
publishers had not been so slovenly with that folio ed- 
ition of his plays, there would never have been any 
hunt for a cipher, nor any of this Bacon talk. 



*'In the early days, when I lived on the plains of 
Western Kansas on a homestead," says John H. Whit- 
son, well and favorably known to dozens of editors, '*I 
was nosed out by a correspondent for a Kansas City 
paper, who thought there was something bizarre in the 
fact that an author was living the simple life of a West- 
ern Settler. The purported interview he published was 
wonderful concoction! He gave a descriptive picture of 
the dug-out in which I lived, and filled in the gaps with 
other matter drawn from^Jbis imagination, making me 
out a sort of literary trdgloc^e; whereas, as a matter 
of fact, I had never lived &p/dug-out. On top of it, one 
of my homesteading friends asked me in all seriousness 
how much I had paid to get that write-up and picture in 
the Kansas City paper, and seemed to think I was doing 
some tall lying when I said I had paid nothing." 



W 



XI ■ 

WHEN FICTION IS 
STRANGER THAN TRUTH. 

We are told that "fiction hath in it a higher end than 
fact," which we may readily believe; and we may also 
concede that ''truth is stranger than fiction," at least in 
its occasional application. Nevertheless, in the course of 
his career as a writer Edwards has created two fictional 
fancies which so closely approximated truth as to make 
fiction stranger than truth ; and, in one case, the net re- 
sult of imagination was to coincide exactly with real facts 
of which the imagination could take no account. Per- 
haps each of these two instances is unique in its particu- 
lar field ; they are, in any event, so odd as to be worthy 
of note. 

In the early 90 's, when a great deal of Edwards' 
work was appearing, unsigned, in The Detroit Free 
Press, he wrote for that paper a brief sketch entitled, 
"The Fatal Hand.'' The sketch was substantially as 
follows : 

"The Northern Pacific Railroad had just been built into 
Helena, Montana, and I happened to be in the town one 
evening and stepped into a gambling hall. Burton, a friend of 
mine, was playing poker with a miner and two professional 
gamblers. I stopped beside the table and watched the game. 

Cards had just been drawn. Burton, as soon as he had 
looked at his hand, calmly shoved the cards together, laid them 
face-downward in front of him, removed a notebook from his 
pocket and scribbled something on a blank leaf. 'Read that,' 
said he, 'when you get back to your hotel tonight.' 

The play proceeded Presently the miner detected one of the 
profession^ gamblers in the act of cheating. Words were 

76 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



passed, the lie given. All the players leaped to their feet 
Burton, in attempting to keep the miner from shooting, received 
the gambler's bullet and fell dead upon the scattered cards. 

An hour later, when I reached my hotel, I thought of the 
note Burton had handed me. It read: 'I have drawn two red 
sevens. I now hold jacks full on red sevens. It is a fatal hand 
and I shall never leave this table alive. I have $6,000 in die 
First National Bank at Bismarck. Notify my mother, Mrs. 
Ezra J. Burton, Louisville, Kentucky.' " 

This small product of the Fiction Factory was pure 
fiction from beginning to end. In the original it had the 
tang of point and counterpoint which caused it to be 
seized upon by other papers and widely copied. This 
gave extensive publicity to the "fatal hand" — ^the three 
jacks and two red sevens contrived by^Edwards out of a 
small knowledge of poker and the ca^d^/of cards. 

Yet, what was the result ? 

A month later the Chicago papers published an ac- 
cotmt of a police raid on a gambling room. As the offi- 
cers rushed into the place a man at one of the tables fell 
forward and breathed his last. "Heart disease/' was 
the verdict. But note: A police officer looked at the 
cards the dead man had held and found them to be three 
jacks and two red sevens, 

A week later The New York Recorder gave space to 
a news story in which a man was slain at a gaming 
table in Texas. When the smoke of the shooting had 
blown away some one made the discovery that he had 
held the fatal hand. 

From that time on for several months the fatal hand 
left a trail of superstition and gore all over the West. 
How many murders and hopeless attacks of heart failure 
it was responisble for Edwards had no means of know- 
ing, but he could scarcely pick tip a paper without find- 

77 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



tng an account of some of the ravages caused by his 
"jacks full on red sevens.'' 

Query : Were the reporters of the country romanc- 
ing? If not, will some psychologist kindly rise and ex- 
plain how a bit of fiction could be responsible for so 
much real tragedy? 

In this instance, fancy established a precedent for 
fact ; in the case that follows, the frankly fictitious par- 
alleled the unknown truth in terms so exact that the 
story was recognized and appropriated by the son of the 
story's hero. 

While Edwards was in Arizona he was continually 
on the alert for story material. The sun, sand and soli- 
tude of the country "God forgot" produce types to be 
found nowhere else. He ran out many a trail that led 
from adobe-walled towns into waterless deserts and 
bleak, cacti-covered hills to end finally at some mine or 
cattle camp. It was on one of these excursions that he 
was told how a company of men had built a dam at a 
place called Walnut Grove. This dam backed up the 
waters of a river and formed a huge lake. Mining for 
gold by the hydraulic method was carried on profitably 
in the river below the dam. One night the dam "went 
out" and a number of laborers were drowned. 

With this as the germ of the plot Edwards worked 
out a story. He called it "A Study in Red," and it pur- 
ported to show how a lazy Maricopa Indian, loping 
along on his pony in the gulch below Walnut Grove, gave 
up his mount to a white girl, daughter of the superinten- 
dent of the mining company, and while she raced on to 

safety he remained to die in the flood from the broken 
dam. 

78 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



The story was published in Munsey's Magazine. 

Six years later the author received a letter from the 

Maricopa Indian Reservation, sent to New York in care 

of the F. A. Munsey Company. The letter was f nnn a 

young Maricopa. 

"I have often read the account of my father's bravery, and 
how he saved the life of the beautiful white girl when the 
Walnut Grove dam gave way. I have kept the magazine, and 
whenever I feel blue, or life does not go to please me, I get the 
story and read it and take heart to make the best of my lot and 
try to pattern after my father. 

I have long wanted to write you, and now I have done so. 
I am back from the Indian School at Carlisle, on a visit to my 
people, and am impelled to send you this letter of appreciation 
and thanks for the story about my father." 

Now, pray, what is one to think of this ? The letter 
bears all the earmarks of a bona fide performance and 
was written and mailed on the Reservation. Edwards' 
fiction, it seems, had become sober fact for this young 
Maricopa Indian. Or did his father really die by giving 
up his pony to the "beautiful young white girl?*' And 
was Edwards' prescience doing subliminal stunts when 
he wrote the story? 

John Peter, should this ever meet your eyes will you 
please communicate further with the author of "A Study 
in Red?" It has been some years now since a letter, 
sent to you at the Reservation, failed of a reply. And 
the letter has not been returned. 



79 



XII 

FORTUNE BEGINS 
TO SMILE 

Edwards' literary fortunes all but reached financial 
zero in 1897; with 1898 they began to mount, although 
the tendency upward was not very pronounced until the 
month of April. During the first quarter of the year he 
wrote and sold one Stella Edwards serial entitled "Lovers 
En Masque." His poor health continued, and he was 
able to work only a few hours each day, but the fact that 
he couMJldve himself to^the^p^ and lash his 

wits into evolving acceptable work gave him encourage- 
ment to keep at it. Early in April, with part of the 
proceeds from the serial story for expenses, he made a 
trip to New York. 

"Prospecting trips" is the name Edwards gives to his 
frequent journeys to the publishing center of the coun- 
try. He jQTpspprf^ifl f^x f^rAi^r^^ p rospected for better 
prices, pros^egfed fo r^flgw markets! No fiction factory 
can be run successfully on a haphazard system for dis- 
posing of its product. There must be some market in 
prospect, and on the wheel of this demand the output 
must be shaped as the potter shapes his clay. 

Edwards made it a rule to meet his publishers once a 
year, secure their personal^ yiewsjis he could not secure 
them ffirbugh corresponidence, and keep himself promin- 
ently before them. In this way he secured commissions 
which, undoubtedly, would otherwise have been placed 

80 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

elsewhere. With each succeeding journey Edwards has 
made to New York, his prospecting trips have profited 
him more and more. This is as it should be. There is 
no "marking time" for a writer in the fierce competi* 
tion for editorial favor; for one merely to "hold his 
own" is equivalent to losing ground. The writer must 
grow in his work. When he ceases to do that he will 
find himself slipping steadily backward toward oblivion. 

Edwards found that in reaching New York in early 
April 1898, he had arrived at the psychological moment. 
Harte & Perkins, already described as keeping tense 
fingers on the pu^e of their reading public, had discov- 
ered a feverish quickening of interest for which the 
Klondike gold nish was responsible. The prognosis 
was good for a new five-cent library; so the "Golden 
Star Library" was given to the presses. Edwards, be* 
cause he was on the spot and urging his claims for recog* 
nition, was chosen to furnish the copy. During the year 
he wrote sixteen of these stories. 

For half of April and all of May and June, Edwards 
and his wife were at their old boarding place in Forty- 
fourth street. During this time, along with the writing 
of the Golden Star stories, a juvenile serial and a Stella 
Edwards serial were prepared. The title of the Stella 
Edwards rhapsody was "A Blighted Heart. ' ' 

On July 2, owing to the excessive heat in the city and 
a belief on Edwards' part that the country would bene- 
fit him, the Fiction Factory was temporarily removed to 
the Catskill Mountains. Comfortable quarters were se- 
cured in a hotel near Cairo, and the work of producing 
copy went faithfully on. Edwards' health improved 

81 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



somewhat, although he was still unable to keep at his 
machine for a union day of eight hours. 

Under date of Aug. i, Harte & Perkins wrote Ed- 
wards that on account of the poor success of the Golden 
Star Library they would have to stop its weekly publi- 
cation and issue it as a monthly. Mr. Perkins write: 

"I do not think that the quality of the manuscciipt is so 
much at fault as the character of the library itself, though it is 
very difficult always to know just what the boys want** 

Edwards was depending upon this library to sup- 
port himself and wife, and the weekly check was a sine 
qua nan. Summer-resorting is expensive, and he had 
not yet had his fill of the historic old Catskills. He 
wrote the firm and requested them to send on a check 
for "A Blighted Heart." The blight did not confine it- 
self to the story but was visited upon Edwards' hopes, as 
well. Harte & Perkins did not respond favorably. The 
serial was not to begin in ''The Weekly Guest** until the 
latter part of September, and upon beginning publication 
was to be paid for in weekly installments of $25. Wrote 
Mr. Perkins: 

'This is a season when, with depressed business and the 
many accounts we have to look after, it is difficult for us to 
make advanced payments on manuscripts. You may rest assured 
that, if conditions were otherwise, I should have been giad to 
meet your wishes." 

This meant an immediate farewell to the stamping 
grounds of good old Rip Van Winkle. Forthwith the 
Edwards struck their tent and boarded a night boat at 
Catskill Landing for down river. In their stateroom 
that night, with a fountain pen and using the wash- 
stand for a table, Edwards completed No. 16 of the ill- 
fated Golden Star Library. He had begun this manu- 
script before the notification to stop work on the series 

82 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

had reached him. In such cases, Harte & Perkins never 
refused to accept the complete story. 

December found Edwards again settled on the North 
Side, in Chicago. He had consulted a physician rq^d- 
tng his health, and after a thorough examination had 
been told that it would require at least a year, and per- 
haps a year and a half, to cure him. The physician was 
a young man of splendid ability, and as he had just ''put 
out his shingle" and patients were slow in rallying 
"round the standard," he threw himself heart and soul 
into the task of making a whole man out of Edwards. 
The writer helped by leasing a flat within half a block 
of his medical adviser and faced the twelve or eighteen 
months to oxne with more or less equanimity. 

Edwards, of course, could not recline at his ease 
while the work of rehabilitation was going forward 
The family must be supported and the doctor paid. 
Forty dollars a month from the Golden Star Library 
would not do this. It was necessary to run up the re- 
turns somehow and another Stella Edwards story was 
undertaken. The title of this story was ^'Won by 
Love," and Harte & Perkins acknowledged receipt of 
the first two installemnts on Dec. 6. Inasmuch as "Won 
by Love" came very near being the death of its autjfior, 
it may be interesting to consider the story a little fur- 
ther. The letter of the 6th ran: 

"We have received the first two installments of 'Won by 
Love' and like them very much indeed, but before giving you 
a definite answer we would like to have four more instalments 
on approval, making six in all. Kindly send these at your ear- 
liest convenience and oblige.." 

93 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



The four installments were sent and nothing more 
was heard from them until a telegram, dated Jan. 19, 
1899, was received: 

"Please send more of 'Won by Love' as soon as possible. 
Must have it Monday." 

Owing to the fact that the writer of the old Five- 
Cent Library, for which Edwards had furnished copy 
some years before, had been taken seriously ill, this 
work had been turned over to Edwards on Dec. 2y^ 1898. 

At this ti me ^Edwards was confined to his bed^^ and 
there he woirked^^ his typewriter m front ot Iiim on an 
improvised table. He had just finished several hours* 
work on a library story when the telegram regarding 
"Won by Love" was received. This was Saturday. 
Edwards wired at once that he would send two more in- 
stallments on the following Monday. These 12,000 
words went forward according to schedule, and on the 
night they were sent the doctor called and found his 
patient in a state of collapse. Cause, too much "Won 
by Love." The young physician took it more to heart 
than Edwards did. 

"I'm afraid," said he gloomily, "that you have end- 
ed your writing for all time." 

"You're wrong, doctor," declared Edwards; "I*m 
not going to be removed until I've done something bet- 
ter than pot-boilers." 

"I want to call a specialist into consultation," was 
the reply. 

The specialist was called and Edwards was stripped 
and his body marked off into sections — ^mapped out 
with one medical eye on the "imdiscovered country" and 
the other on this lowly but altogether lovely 'Vale of 

84 



i 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

tears." When the examination was finished, the pre- 
ponderance of testimony was all in favor of the Prom- 
ised Land. 

"I should say, Mr. Edwards," said the specialist, in 

a tone professionally sympathetic, "that you have one 
chance in three to get well. Your other chance is for 
possibly seven or eight years of life. The third chance 
allows you barely time to settle your affairs." 

Settle his affairs! What affairs had Edwards to 
settle? There was tjie next library to be written and 
"Won by Love" to finish, but these would have netted 
Mrs. Edwards no more than $340. And the smallest 
chance would not suffer Edwards to leave his wife even 
this pittance. Since his disastrous Arizona experience 
Edwards had not been able to save any money. He was 
only just beginning to look ahead to a little garnering 
when the doctors pronounced their verdict. He had not 
a dollar of property, real or personal, if his library was 
not taken into account, and not a cent of life insurance. 
After turning this deplorable situation over in his mind, 
he decided that it was impossible for him to die. 

"I'm going to take the first chance," said he, "and 
make the most of it." 

He did. The young physician gave up more of his 
time and worked like a galley slave to see his patient 
through. Now, thirteen years after the specialist spoke 
the last word, Edwards is in robust health — ^the monu- 
ment of his own determination and the young doctor's 
5kill. Nothing succeeds — sometimes — ^like the logic pf 

nU desperandum. 

To regain a foothold with his publishers, following 

the disastrous year of 1897, had cost Edwards so much 

85 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

persistent work that he would not cancel a single order. 
He hired a steno£[rapher and for two weeks dictated his 
stories, then again resumed the writing of them him- 
self, in bed and with the use of the improvised table. 
Success awaited all his fiction, even when turned out in 
such adverse circumstances. This, perhaps, was the best 
tonic he could have. He improved slowly but surely and 
was able, in addition to his regular work, to write a hun- 
dred-thousand word novel embracing his Arizona ex- 
periences. This novel he called "He Was a Stranger, '* 
The title was awkward, but it had been clipped from 
the quotation, "he was a stranger, and they took him in.*' 
The story was submitted to Harte & Perkins, but they 
were not in the mood for taking in strangers of that sort. 
But the year following the novel secured the friendly 
consideration of Mr. Matthew White, Jr., and introduced 
Edwards into the Munsey publications. 

Another novel, " The Man from Dakota," was re- 
turned by Harte & Perkins after they had had it on hand 
for a year. It was declined in the face of a favorable re- 
port by one of their readers because, "We have so many 
books on hand that must be brought out during the next 
year that we cannot consider this story." 

The year 1899 closed with Fortune's smile brighten- 
ing delightfully for Edwards, and the new century 
beckoning him pleasantly onward with the hope of better 
things to come. The returns for the two years, stand- 
ing to the credit of The Fiction Factory, are summar- 
ized thus: 

i8g8: 

"Lovers En l^^isque,*^ $ 30a 

"Golden Star Library," 16 at $40 each, 640. 

86 



i^ 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Bo]rs Serial, loo. 

"A Blighted Heart," 300. 

Total $1340. 

1899: 

'Won by Love,". $300. 

3 "Golden Stars" at $40 each 12a 

35 Five-Cent Libraries at $40 each, 1400. 

Total $i82a 



Edwards lives in the outskirts of a small town, on a 
road much travelled by farmers. Two honest tillers of 
the soil were passing his home, one day, and one of 
them was heard to remark to the other : "A man by the 
name of Edwards lives there, Jake. He's one of those 
fictitious writers." 



Edwards has few friends whom he prizes more highly 
than he does Col. W. F. Cody, "Buffalo Bill," and Major 
Gordon W. LiUie, "Pawnee Bill." While the Wild West 
and Far East Show, of which Cody and Lillie are the 
proprietors was making its farewell tour with the Last 
of the Scouts, Major Lillie had this to tell about Colonel 
Cody: 

"You'd be surprised at the number of people who try 
to beat their way into the show by stringing the Colo- 
nel. The favorite way is by claiming acquaintance with 
him. A stranger will approach Buffalo Bill with a 
bland smile and an outstretched hand. 'Hello, Colonel!' 
he'll say, 'guess who I am! I'll bet you can't guess who 
I ami' Cody will give it up. 'Why,' bubbles the stran- 
ger, 'don't you remember when you were in Ogden, Utah, 
in nineteen-two ? Remember the crowd at the depot to 
see you get off the train K Why, I was the man in the 
white hat !' " 

"Just this afternoon," laughed the Major, "Cody came 
up to where I was standing. He was wiping the sweat 
from his forehead and his face was red and full of 
disgust. 'What's the matter?' I inquired. *Oh,* he an- 
swered, 'another one of those d — guessing contests! 
Why in blazes can't people think up something new ?' " 



87 



XIII. 

OUR FRIEND, 
THE T. W. 

In some localities of this progressive country the pen 
may still be mightier than the sword ; but if , afar from 
railroad and telegraph, holed away in barbaric seclusion, 
there really exists a community that writes with a quill 
and uses elderberry ink and a sandbox, it is safe to say 
that this community has never been heard of — and the 
cause is not far to seek. Just possibly, however, it is 
from such a backwoods township that the busy editor 
receives those rare manuscripts whose cfairography cov- 
ers both sides of the sheet. In this case the pen is 
really mightier than the sword as an instrument for cut- 
ting the ground out from under the feet of aspiring gen- 
ius. Just possibly, too, it was from such a place that a 
typewritten letter was returned to the sender with the 
indignant scrawl: "You needn't bother to print my let- 
ters — I can read writin'." 

Nowadays penwork is confined largely to signing 
letters and other documents and indorsing checks; to 
use it for anything else should be named a misdemeanor 
in the statutes with a sliding scale of punishments to fit 
the gravity of the offense. 

It is not to be inferred, of course, that a man will dic- 
tate his love letters to a stenographer. Here, indeed, 
f "two's company and three's a crowd." Every man 
I should master the T. W., and when he confides his tender 
I sentiments to paper for the eyes of the One Girl, his 

88 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

own fingers should manipulate the keys and the T. W., 
should be equipped with a tri-chrome ribbon — red and 
black record and purple copying. Black will answer for 
the more subdued expressions, red should be switched on 
for the warmer terms of endearment, and purple should 
be used for whatever might be construed as evidence in 
a court of law. Even billets-doux have been known to 
develop a commercial value. 

When a serviceable typewriter may be bought for $25 
what excuse has anyone for side-stepping the inventive 
ingenuity of the day which makes for clearness and 
speed? How much does Progress owe the typewriter? 
Who can measure the debt? How much does civiliza- 
tion owe the telephone, the night-letter, the fast mail 
and two-cent postage? Even more than to these does 
Progress owe to that mechanism of springs, keys and 
type-bars which makes plain and rapid the written 
thought. 

In the Edwards Fiction Factory the T. W., comprises 
the entire "plant." The "hands'* employed for the skill- 
ed labor are his own, and fairly proficient. His own, 
too, is the administrative ability, modest enough in all 
truth yet able to guide the Factory's destiny with a fair 
meed of success. 

Since the T. W., is so important, Edwards believes in 
always keeping abreast of improvements. The best is 
none too good. A typed script, no less than a stereo- 
typed idea, is damned by mediocrity. If a typewriter 
appears this year which is a distinct advance over last 
year's machine, Edwards has it. Keeping up-to-date is 
usually a little expensive, but it pays. 

89 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

In the early days of his writing Edwards used the old 
Caligraph. It was a small machine and confined it* 
self to capital letters. Whenever he wished to indicate 
the proper place for a capital he did it thus: HIS 
NAME WAS CAESAR, AND HE LIVED IN ROME. 
If he lost a letter — and letters in those days were not 
easily replaced— Jic allowed the unknown quantity "X" 
to piece out: HIX NAME WAX CAEXAR— . In 
due time he came to realize the importance of neatness 
and traded his first Caligraph for a later model equip- 
ped with letters from both "cases/' During twenty- 
two years he has purchased at least twenty-five type- 
writers, each the last word in typewriter construction at 
the time it was bought. At present he has two machines, 
one a "shift-key** and the other with every letter and 
character separately represented on the key-board. 

There are many makes of t3rpewriters, and operators 

are of many minds regarding the "best" makes. Ed- 
wards has favored the full key-board as being less of a 
drain upon the attention than the "shift-key" machine. 
For the writer who composes upon his machine the op- 
erating must become a habit, otherwise an elusive idea 
may take wings for good while the one who evolved it is 
searching out the letters necessary to nail it hard and 
fast to the white sheet. Edwards has recently discovered 
that he can change from his full key-board to a shift-key 
and back again without materially interrupting his flow 
of ideas. 

The characters of the key-board used for ordinary 
business purposes and those in demand by the writer are 
somewhat different. Not always, on the key-board de- 

50 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

signed for commercial use, will the exclamation point be 
found. This, if wanted, must be built up out of a period 
and a half-ditto mark,—"." plus " ' " equals " !*' Such 
makeshifts should be tabooed by the careful writer. 
Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well, and 
once. Three motions, two at the key-board and one at 
the back-spacer, are two too man/. By all means have 
the real thing in exclamation points — ! 

Another makeshift with which Edwards has little 
patience is the custom of using ditto marks for quota- 
tion marks, and semi-dittos for semi-quotes. These, and 
other characters, may be added to most machines by 
eliminating the fractions, the oblique mark or the per 
cent. sign. 

Is seems poor policy, also, to use a hjrphen, or two 
h)rphens, to indicate a dash. Why not have the under- 
score raised to the position of a hyphen and so have a 
dash that is a dash? 

The asterisk, "*," is a character valuable for indicat- 
ing footnotes , and the caret is often useful in 
making t)rpewritten interlineations. All these charac- 
ters Edwards has on his full key-board machine. On 
the shift-key machine he must still struggle with the 
built-up exclamation point, the ditto quotes and the 
hyphen dash. No wonder he prefers a Smith Premier! 

Even the best and most up-to-date typewriter cannot 
answer all the demands made upon it by writers, how- 
ever. Some day the growing army of authors will re- 
ceive due attention in this matter, and the manuscript 
submitted to editors will compare favorably with the 
printed story. 



91 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



In "Habits that Help," a very instructive article by 
Walter D. Scott, professor of psychology at Northwest- 
em University, published in Everybody's Magazine for 
September, 191 1, appears this paragraph: 

"Some time ago I could pick out the letttcrs on a typewriter at 
a rate of about one per second. 'Writing is now becoming 
reduced to a habit, and I can write perhaps three letters a second. 
When the act has been reduced to the pure habit form, I shall be 
writing at the rate of not less than five letters per second." 

The "pure habit form" is one for those who compose 
on the typewriter to acquire. It not only means ease of 
composition, but speed in the performance and perfect 
legibility. 

Until a few years ago, Edwards always carried his 
typewriter with him on his travels. The machine was 
large and heavy and had to be handled with care, so its 
transportation was no easy matter. In course of time, 
and pending the invention of a practical typewriter to fit 
the pocket, he became content to leave his machine at 
home and rent one wherever he happened to be. 

During one of his eastern "prospecting" trips, Ed- 
wards and his wife left New York for a few summer 
weeks in the Berkshire Hills. The T. W., remained 
temporarily in the city to be overhauled and forwarded. 
For a fortnight Edwards slaved with a pen, writing four 
manuscripts of 25,000 words each. He appreciated then, 
as he had never done before, the value of the t)rpewriter 
in his work. Late in the first week he began writing 
and telegraphing for his machine to be sent on. 

About the hotel it was known that Edwards expected 
a typewriter by every stage from Great Barrington. He 
had fretted about the non-arrival of the typewriter, and 
in some manner had let fall the information that his 

92 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

typewriter weighed sixty pounds. Speculation was rife 
as to whether the T. W., had blue eyes or gray, and as to 
what manner of dwarf or living skeleton could fulfill 
the requirements at sixty pounds. When the machine 
finally arrived and the square packing case was unloaded, 
a host of curious ladies received the surprise of their 
lives. 

"T)rpewriter," commonly used as a generic name for 
the machine that prints, as well as for the person who 
operates it, should have its double meaning curtailed. 
The young lady of pleasing face and amiable deport* 
ment, whose deft fingers hover over the keys of a sense- 
less machine, is entitled to something more appropriate 
in the way of a professional title. 

Let it be "typist, '* after the English fashion; and in- 
stead of sajring "the typist typewrote the letter,' ' why not 
say she "typed" it? 



An editor once returned a mantiscript with a note like 
this : 

Dear Sir: — Put it into narrative form. 

Yours truly, "The Editor." 

I did so. A week later came this: 

"Dear Sir : — A little mjrstery would help. We like your 
style very much. Yours truly, "The Editor." 

I put in the mystery. A week later,— 

"Dear Sir:— You send us good verse. Why not turn 
the marked paragraphs into verse, with strong influence 
on story? Well written. "Yours truly, etc." 

It was a good idea. The verse was acceptable. It was 
so acceptable that the editor sent back the story and a 
check for $5 in payment for the verse — ^which was aU 
he kept! 



93 



XIV 

FRESH FIELDS 

AND PASTURES NEW 

So far in his writing career Harte & Perkins had 
been the heaviest purchasers of Edwards* fiction. They 
had given him about all he could do of a certain dass of 
work, and he had not tried to find other markets for the 
Factory's product. Pinning his hopes to one firm, even 
though it was the best f i nn! m t he business, was unsatis* 

[pry in many respects. For various reasons, any one 

which is good and sufficient, a writ er should have 
more tha n one "strini^ to his bow.^ Harte & Perkins, 
jealously watching the tastes of their reading public, 
were compelled to make many and sudden changes in the 
material they put out. This directly affected the writers 
of the material, and Edwards was often left with no pros- 
pects at all, and perhaps at just the time when he flatter- 
ed himself that his prospects were brightest. 

In preceding chapters mention has been made of two 
serial stories in which Edwards had vainly endeavored to 
interest Harte & Perkins. One of these was "The Man 
from Dakota," and the other, "He Was A Stranger.'* 
These, and another entitled "A Tale of Two Towns, '* 
written late in 1900, were ultimately to open new mar- 
kets. 

In a diary for the year 1900, Edwards has this under 
date of Tuesday, Jan. 2: 

04 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



"Mr. Paisley ctlled to see me this tnoming on a bttsiness 
matter. It appears that the proprietor of The Western World 
had ordered a serial from Opie Read and was not satisfied 
with it* As The Western World goes to press in a few days 
thcv must have another story at once. Later in the day I talked 
with Mr. Underwood the (as I suppose) proprietor, and he 
asked me to get "The Man from Dakota" from Mr. Kerr, of 
The Chicago Ledger, I did so and took the manuscript over 
to Mr. Paisley. If it is acceptable they are to pay me $i200 
for ft* 

Mr. Paisley was a gentleman with whom Mrs. Ed- 
wards had become acquainted while attending Frank 
Holme's School for Illustration, in Chicago. He was a 
man of much ability. 

Under Thursday, Jan. 4, the diary has a memorandtun 
to this effect: 

"Mr. PaisW came out to see me at noon. Ther like 'The 
Man from Dakota' and will pav me $200 for it, aivided into 
three payments of $50, $50 and $100." 

So, finally, "The Man from Dakota*' got into print. 
While it was still appearing in The Western World; Mr, 
Underwood conceived the idea of booming the circula- 
tion of his paper by publishing a mystery story— one of 
those stories in which the mystery is not revealed until 
the last chapter, and for the solution of which prizes are 
offered. He asked Edwards if he would write such a 
story. Why should Edwards write one when he already 
had on hand the mystery story unsuccessfully entered in 
the old Chicago Daily News contest? He offered this 
to Mr. Underwood. He read it and liked it. Mr. Pais- 
ley read it and liked it. What was the very lowest figure 
Edwards would take for it ? 

Mr. Underwood, in getting around to this point, told 
how he had sent for Stanley Waterloo and asked him to 
*What do you think of that! 

Q5 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

the fact that the story would establish him in the columns 
of a growing magazine and, with an eye to the future, 
accepted the offer. He has never had occasion to regret 
his decision. 

From the beginning of the year Edwards had been 
doing a large amount of five-cent library work for Harte 
& Perkins. A new weekly had been started, the writer 
who furnished the copy failed to gpt his manuscript in on 
time, and Edwards was given a story to finish and, a few 
days afterward, the entire series to take care of. 

At the time he sold the serial to Mr. White, he was 
suppl)ring weekly copy for two libraries — ^the old Five- 
Cent Library and the new weekly, which shall here be 
referred to as the Circus Series. 

On the proceeds from the sale of "He Was A 
Stranger" Edwards and his wife had a little outing at 
Atlantic City. They returned to New York for a few 
days, and then went on to Boston. Here, comfortably 
quartered in a hotel, Edwards devoted his mornings to 
work and his afternoons to seeing the "sights" with Mrs. 
Edwards. They haunted Old Cambridge, they made pil- 
grimages to Salem, to Plymouth and to other places, and 
they enjoyed themselves as they had never done before 
on an eastern trip. Later they finished out the summer 
near Monterey, in the Berkshire Hills. 

During all these travels the Fiction Factory was reg- 
ularly grinding out its grist of copy — ^so many pages a 
day, so many stories a week. Two libraries, together 
with a sketch each month for a trade paper published by 
Harte & Perkins, kept Edwards too busy to prepare any 
manuscripts for The Argosy. Much of his work, while 

98 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



in the Berkshires, was done in longhand. On this point 
Mr. Perkins wrote, July 25 : 

*'I should think you would miss your tjrpewritcr. I fear that 
I shall miss it, too, when I read your manuscript, although I 
find your writing easier to read than that of any of our other 
writers." 

In August the Edwards went West, visited for a time 
in Michigan and then in Wisconsin, finally returned to 
the former state and, in the little country town where 
Edwards was bom, bought an old place and settled 
down. 

As with the Golden Star Library, misfortune finally 
overtook the Circus Series. A telegram was received 
telling Edwards to hold No. 47 of the Circus Series pend- 
ing instructions by letter. The letter instructed him to 
close up finally the adventures of the hero and his 
friends and bring their various activities to an appro- 
priate end. The series was continued, for a while long- 
er, with a brand-new hero in each story; but Edwards 
was requested to write but three of the stories in the new 
form. 

The year, which opened auspiciously and proved a 
banner year financially, closed with a discontinuance of 
all orders from Harte & Perkins. Re-prints were being 
used in the old Five-Cent Library — stories that had been 
issued years before and could now be republished for 
another generation of boy readers. Under date of Dec. 
I, 191 1, Mr. Perkins wrote: 

"I know of nothing, just at present, which you can do for 
us, but should anything develop I shall be very glad to inform 
jrou." 

This left Edwards with a sketch a month for the 
trade paper, for which he was paid $10 each. That 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



misfortunes never comb singly" is an old saying, and 
one which Edwards has found particularly true in the 
writing profession. A letter of Dec. 27, informed him : 

"We have decided to dispense with the sketches in our trade 
paper for die present, at least; therefore the February sketch 
we have in hand will be the last we will want unless we give 
you further notice." 

In a good many cases the tendency of a writer, when 
fate deals hardly with him in the matter of a demand for 
his work, is to take his rebuffs too seriously. Often he 
will lock up his Factory, leaving a placard on the door : 
''Closed. Proprietor gone to Halifax. Nothing in the 
fiction game anyhow." 

Edwards used to feel in this way. As he grew older 
he learned to take his disappointments with more or less 
equanimity, and to keep the Factory running. He 
thought, now, of Mr. White and The Argosy, Here was 
a good time to prepare an Argosy serial. He wrote it, 
sent it, and on Feb. 15, 1901, received this terse letter: 

"My dear Mr. Edwards: 

We can use your story, 'The Tangle in Butte/ in The 
Argosy at $200. Very truly yours, 

Matthew White, Jr." 

This was less than the price paid for "He Was A 
Stranger," but the story ran only 60,000 words, while the 
other serial had gone to 100,000. The acceptance went 
to Mr. White by return mail. 

On the day following there came a letter from Harte 
& Perkins ordering work in the old Five-Cent Library — 
work that would keep Edwards busy for the rest of the 
year. Ten of the old stories which Edwards had writ- 
ten were to be revised and lengthened by 10,000 words. 
For this work he was to be paid $30 for each story. 
When the ten numbers had been revised and lengthened, 

100 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

he was to go on with the stories, writing a new one each 
week. Fifty dollars apiece was to be paid for the new 
stories. 

There was an order, too, for more sketches for the 
trade paper, to be done in another vein. 

On Aug. 5 the length of the Five-Cent Library stories 
was cut from 30,000 words to 20,000, and the remunera- 
tion was cut from $50 to $40. Another juvenile paper 
was started and Edwards was asked to submit serials for 
it. In fact, 1901 might be called a "boom" year for the 
Fiction Factory, although the returns, while satisfactory, 
were not of the "boom" variety. 

Perhaps the reader may remember the serial, "A Vas- 
sar Girl,** referred to in a previous chapter as having been 
submitted to Harte & Perkins and rejected. Edwards 
had faith in this story and offered it to Mr. White. Mr. 
White's judgment, however, tallied with that of Harte 
& Perkins. Under date of June 13 Mr. White wrote : 

"I am sorry that *A Vassar Girl' has not borne out the 
promise of the opening chapters. The interest in it is not suf- 
ficiently sustained for serial use. The story might be divided 
into several incidents, which do not grow inevitably the one 
out of the other. For this reason it has, as a whole, proved 
disappointing and I am returning the manuscript by express. 
We should be glad, however, to have you continue to submit 
work to us." 

With faith undiminished, Edwards forwarded the 
story to McClure*s Newspaper Syndicate. It was re- 
turned without an explanation of any kind. Again he 
prevailed upon Harte & Perkins to consider it. It came 
back from them on Sept. 13, with this message: 

"I am sorry to say that we do not feel inclined to revise 
our judgement with reference to your manuscript story, 'A 
Vassar Girl.' I am inclined to think from looking over the 

101 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



review of the story that it would be well for you to sell it just 
as it is, and we hope you will be able to find a market for it 
somewhere. It would not pay us to publish." 

Edwards knew that the story, wrought out of his Ari- 
zona experiences, was true in local color and good of its 
kind, and he failed to understand why it was not appre- 
ciated. Then, on Sep. 14, came this from the S. S. Mc- 
Qure C<»npany: 

"During July we had under consideration a story of yours 
entitled, 'A Vassar Girl.' On July 31 we wrote you from the 
Syndicate, informing you that we hoped to be able to use the 
story as a serial in the very near future. The serial was taken 
back for consideration in the book department by one of the 
readers who wished again to examine it, and from there it was 
erroneously returned to you. Now if you have not disposed of 
the serial rights of 'A Vassar Girl' we should like you again 
to forward the story to us, and we will submit it to some of our 
papers as we had always intended to do. We will then give you 
a prompt decision.** 

The story was purchased, and Edwards' faith in it 
was confirmed. 

It was during this year of igoi that Edwards had a 
fleeting glimpse of fortune as a playwright. His story, 
"The Tangle in Butte,** had been read by an actor, a 
leading man in a Kansas City stock company, who wanted 
dramatic rights so that he might hate a play taken from 
it and written around him. Edwards proposed to write 
the play himself. He did so, and was promptly offered 
$5,000 for the play, payable in installments after produc- 
tion. Following a good deal of correspondence it was 
decided to put on the piece for a week's try-out in Kan- 
sas City. Edwards waived his right to royalties for the 
week, models of the scenery were made, rehearsals be- 
gan — and then the actor was suddenly stricken with a 
serious illness and the deal was off. When he had re- 

102 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

covered sufficiently to travel he went East, taking the 
play with him. For several months he tried to interest 
various managers in it, but without effect. 

The year 1901 closed for Edwards with the sketches 
for the trade paper no longer in demand ; but, otherwise, 
be faced a steadily brightening prospect for the Fiction 
Factory. 

1900: 

Circus Series, 28 ® $40 each $1120.00 

Circus Series, G)mpleting unfinished story 20.00 

Five-Cent Library, 23 @ $40 each 920.00 

Trade Paper Sketches, 10 ® $10 each 100.00 

•*Hc Was A Stranger," 250.00 

"The Man From Dakota," 200.00 

"WJiat Happened to the Colonel," 75.00 

Total 92685.00 

1901: 

Five-Cent Library, 10 rewritten @ $30 each % 300.00 

Five-Cent Library, 8 @ $50 each 400.00 

Five-Cent Library, 16 @ $40 each 640.00 

Four Boys' Serials ® $100 each 400.00 

"The Tangle in Butte," 200.00 

"Tale of Two Towns," 150.00 

"A Vassar Girl," • , 100.00 

Trade Paper Sketches, 9 ^ $10 each 90.00 

Total $2280.00 



Very Often. 



Poeta nascitur; non fit This has been somewhat 
freely translated by one who should know, as "The poet 
is bora; not paid.** 



103 



XV. 

FROM THE 
FACTORY'S FILES 

A letter of commendation from the reader of a story 
to the writer is not only a pleasant thing in itself but it 
proves the reader a person of noble soul and high mo- 
tives. Noblesse oblige! 

The writer who loves his work is not of a sordid na- 
ture. The check an editor sends him for his story is 
the smallest part of his reward. His has been the joy 
to create, to see a thought take form and amplify under 
the spell of his inspiration. A joy which is scarcely less 
is to know that his work has been appreciated by others. 

A letter like the one below, for instance, not only 
gives pleasure to the recipient but at the same time fires 
a writer with determination never to let his work fall 
short of a previous performance. This reader's good 
will he must keep, at all hazards. 

"Waylaiid, N. Y., March 22nd, 1905. 
"Mr. John Milton Edwards, 

Care The F. A. Munsey Co., New York. 
My dear Sir: 

I read the story in this last Argosy, entitled Tate and the 
Figure Seven,' and was in a way considering if it were pos- 
sible that a man could act in the subconscious state you pic- 
ture. Deem my surprise, last night, when I read of a similar 
case in the report of the Brockton accident 

In case you should have failed to notice this item, I send 
you a clipping from a Buffalo paper. 

I WISH INCIDENTALLY TO THANK YOU FOR 
YOUR SHARE IN MAKING LIFE PLEASANT FOR ME. 
I have enjoyed your works inunensely from time to time on 

104 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



account of their decidedly original ideas. They are always 
refreshingly out of the ordinary rut. Yours truly, 

"A. F. V .'* 

There is one sentence in this letter which Edwards 
has put in capitals. If possible, he would have written 
it in letters of gold. In this little world, so crowded 
with sorrow and tragedy, what is it worth to have had a 
share in making life pleasant for a stranger? To Ed* 
wards it has been worth^nfinitely more than he received 
for "Fate and the Figure Seven.'* 

Another letter carries an equally pleasant message: 

''Livingstone, Montana, Sep. i6, 1 903. 
*Mr. John Milton Edwards, 

Care The Argosy, New York City. 

Dear Sir: 

Having read your former stories in The Argosy on 
Arizona, and last night having commenced The Grains of 
Gold,' I trust you will pardon my expression of appreciation 
of said stories. I lived ten years in Arizona as private secre- 
tary to several of the Federal Judges, and also lived in Mexico, 
and am still familiar with conditions in that section. 

I have enjoyed most keenly your handling of thrilling 
scenes on Arizona soil. It is an exasperation that they appear 
in serial form, as I dislike the month's interval. 

My only purpose in writing is to express my admiration of 
your plots and local color, and I remain. 

Sincerely yours, 

"Richard S. S ." 

Edwards has always prided himself on keeping true 
to the actual conditions of the country which forms the 
screen against which his plot and characters are thrown. 
This is a gratifying tribute, therefore, from one who 
knows. 

A letter which rather startled Edwards, suggesting 
as it did the Maricopa Indian incident which trailed upon 
the heels of "A Study in Red,'' \s ttts: 

xaS 



THE FICTION FACTORY 




"Colorado Springs, Colo., 2-25-'09. 
Mr. John Milton Edwards, 

Dear Sir: Through the kindness of the editor of the Blue 
Book I received your address. I am very much interested 
in your story entitled, 'Country Rock at Kish-Kish/ and 
know the greater part of it to be true to life, but would like 
to know if it is ALL true. Did Sager have a daughter? And 
where did Sager go when he left Arizona? Or is that just a 
part of the story? I am very much interested in that charac* 
ter, Sager. Can you tell me if he is still living, and where? 
Any information that you may be able to give me will be more 
than appreciated. 

Thanking you in advance for the favor, I am, 

Yours respectfully, 

Mrs. James R. S— — ." 

Edwards giswere d tfus lei 

al l SUCH letters tha t come to hinLand^^steems it 

l^e— and receive< 



It appeared that Mrs. 
e grand-tlalighter of a man whom "Sager'* had 
robbed of a large amount of money. "Country Rock at 
Kish-Kish" was built on a newspaper clipping twenty 
years old. This clipping Edwards forwarded to Mrs. 
S — in the hope that it might help her in her quest for 
"Sager." The letter was returned as uncalled for. 
Should this ever fall under the eye of Mrs. S — she will 
understand that Edwards did everything in his power to 
be of assistance to her. 

Now and again a letter, which compliments an author 
indirectly, will chasten his mounting spirit with the re- 
minder of a "slip:** 

"Rochester, N. Y., Nov. 17, 1905. 
"Mr. John Milton Edwards: 

Dear Sir : — ^Will you please tell me where I can get more of 
your stories than in the Argosy; and also, in reference to 
your story which concludes in December Argosy, how many 
large autos were in use in New York in xSga? 

Yours respectfully, 

"Howard Z ^.- 

X06 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Carelessness in ^ wri^gf js mexcusable. It is the one 
thing wliich a reader will not forgive, for it is very apt 
to spoil his pleasure in what would othenyise have been 
a good story. This is a sublimated form of the "gold- 
brick game," inasmuch as the reader pays his money for 
a magazine only to find that he has been ''buncoed'* by 
the table of contents. If there is a flaw in the factory's 
product, rest assured that it will be discovered and react 
to the disadvantage of everything else that comes from 
the same mill. 

Many readers will be found whose interest in a writ- 
er's work is so keen that they are tempted to offer sug* 
gestions. Such su gg estions ar<^ ^ nt t^ hgjjfh%^ co nsid- 
ered. _ Magazines are published to pleasetneir readers, 
and they are successful in a direct ratio with their ability 
to accomplish this end. Naturally, the old doggerel con* 
ceming "many men of many minds" will apply here, and 
a single suggestion that has not a wide appeal, or that 
fails to conform to the policy of the magazine, must be 
handled with great care. 

"Cincinnati, Ohio, Oct. 31, 1905. 
"Mr. John Milton Edwards, 

Care Frank A. Munsey Co., 
New York. 
Dear Sir: 

Because of the increasing interest in Socialism, would it 
not be a geod idea to write a story showing under what con- 
ditions we should live in, say, the year 2,000, if the Socialists 
should come into power? 

You might begin your story with the United States under 
a Socialistic form of government, and later on Socialize the 
rest of the world. 

Your imaginative stories are the ones most eagerly sought 
in the pages of The Argosy, and I think that a story such as I 
have suggested would serve to increase your popularity among 
tile readers of fiction. Sincerely yours, 

«7. H. s r 

107 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

It frequently happens that a comedian will get after 
a writer with a stuffed club or a slapstick. Some anony- 
mous humorist, upon reading a story of Edwards' in The 
Argosy, labored and brought forth the following: 

*7ohn Milton Edwards, "November 19,1904. 

Care Frank A. Munsey Co., 
New York. 
My dear John : — 

I have read with much pleasure and delight the first six 
dii4>ters of your latest story, 'At Large in Terra Incognita,' 
as published in the December number of The Argosy, 

I cannot understand why you failed to send me the proof- 
sheets of this story for correction, as you did with There and 
Back.' It is evident so far as I have read the person who 
corrected your proof-sheets was as ignorant as yourself. 

Where you got the material for this story is not within my 
memory, retrospective though it is, and I am sure you must 
luive been on one of your periodical drunks, otherwise the 
fillets of fancy you have taken would have been more rational 
and not so far removed beyond the pale of the human intellect. 

Now, my dear John, I beg of you to give up going on 
these habitual tears, because you are not only ruining your 
constitution but your reputation as a writer is having reflec- 
tions cast upon it. I trust you will not take this letter as a 
sermon but rather in a spirit of friendly counsel. 

I hope you will send me at once the remaining chapters of 
this great 'At Large in Terra Incognita.' 

Your Nemesis, 

"Theo. Roosenfeldt, 

Pres't Trust-Busters' Asso." 

Readers have usually the courage of their convictions 
and not many anon3rmous letters find their way into the 
office of the Fiction Factory. Edwards remembers one 
other letter which was signed "Biff A. Hiram." At that 
time Edwards did not know Mr. Biff A. Hiram from 
Adam, but he has since made the gentleman's acquain- 
tance, and discovered how wide is his circle of friends. 

If praise from a reader has a tendency to exalt, then 
bow much more of the flattering unction may a writer 

108 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



lay to his sotil when approval comes from a brother or 
sister of the pen ? With such a letter, this brief sympos- 
ium from the Factory files may be brought to a close. 

"Mr. John Milton Edwards, 
Dear Sir: — 

Allow me to congratulate you upon your success with tiie 
novelette in a recent issue of the Blue Book, It is to my 
mind the BEST short story of its kind I have EVER read. 
As I try to write short stories I see its merits doubly. The 
modelling is splendid. Will you pardon my display of in* 

terest? Very truly yours, 

"K B ." 



W" 



Rules (or Authors. 



Dr. Edward Everett Hale, author of "The Man without 
a Country/' and other notable books, gives a few rules 
which are of interest to the author and the journalist. 
Dr. Hale's success in the literary world makes these rules, 
gleaned from the field of experience, especially valuable 
to young writers : 

1. Know what you want to say. 

2. Say it. 

3. Use your own language. 

4. Leave out all fine phrases. 

5. A short word is better than a long one. 

6. The fewer words, other things being equal, the better. 

7. Cut it to pieces— which means revise, revise, revise. 



109 



XVI. 

GROWING 
PROSPERITY 

The years 1902 and 1903 were busier years than 
ever for the Fiction Factory. Nineteen-two is to be 
remembered particularly for opening a new depart- 
ure in the story line in The Argosy, and for placing the 
first book with the G. W. Dillingham Company. Nine- 
teen-three claims distinction for seeing the book brought 
out and for boosting the Factory returns beyond the 
three-thousand-dollar mark. But it must not be inferred 
that the book had very much to do with this. Edwards' 
royalties for the year were less than $100. 

In September, 1902, Edwards made one of his cus- 
tomary "prospecting" t rips to New York. If there was 
an}rthing in oiHI^ft^" nii ' stay in the city jfSromised dire 
things. On the second day after his arrival he went to 
Coney Island with a friend. Together they called on the 
seventh son of a seventh son and had their palms read. 
The dispenser of occult knowledge assured Edwards that 
the future was very bright, that Tuesday was his lucky 
day and that Spring was the best time for him to con- 
summate his business undertakings. That day, as it hap- 
pened, was Tuesday. In the teeth of this promising 
augury, and within ten minutes after leaving the palmist's 
booth, some Coney Island "dip" shattered Edwards' con- 
fidence in Tuesday by annexing his wallet. The wallet, 
as it happened, contained all the money Edwards bad 

no 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

brought from home, with the exception of a little loose 
change. 

This was the second time Edwards had been all but 

stranded in the Metropolis, and this time the stranding 

was more complete. When he cast up accounts that 

evening he found himself with a cash balance of $1.63. 

Fortunately Mrs. Edwards was not along. He had left 

her at home with the understanding that she was to 

come on later. When a writer has come within hailing 

distance of the bread line there remains but one thing to 

do, and that is to start the Factory going with day and 

night shifts. 

Edwards called on Mr. White, of The Argosy, and 
outlined a serial story. He was told to go ahead with 
it. For five days Edwards hardly stirred from his room. 
At the end of that time he had completed "The De§p*»«^ 
aao*s Und erstud y7* and had soiaTtlb Mr. Wfiite for 
^250, spot cash. 

After completing this serial, Edwards outlined to Mr. 
White a novelette which would furnish The Argosy with 
something new in the fiction line. The plot was based 
on a musical extravaganza which he had written, several 
years before, in collaboration with Mr. Eugene Kaeuf fer, 
at one time connected with The Bostonians, Nothing 
had ever come of this ambitious effort, although book 
and musical score were completed and offered to Mr. 
McDonald of The Bostonians and to Mr. Thomas Q. 
Seabrooke. Mr. White liked the idea of the story im- 
mensely and gave Edwards carte blanche to go ahead 
with it. 

Ill 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

This story, "Ninety, North," paved the way for other 
fantastic yams which made a decided hit in The Argosy 
and so pointed Edwards along a fresh line of endeavor 
which proved as congenial as it was profitable. 

Several months before he visited New York Edwards 
had sold to The McQure Syndicate, a juvenile serial 
which may be referred to here as "The Campaign at 
Topeka.' * For this he had been offered $200, which of- 
fer he promptly accepted. He had not received a check, 
however, and was at a loss to understand the reason. 
To this day the reason remains obscure, although later 
events pointed to a misunderstanding of some kind re* 
garding the story between the S)mdicate and one of its 
readers. Before Edwards left New York he was paid 
the $200. More than a year afterward he was informed 
that the serial had been sold to the Century Company for 
St, Nicholas, and that after publication in that magazine 
it was to be brought out in book form. 

It was Mr. T. C. McClure who put Edwards in touch 
with the Dillingham Company and referred him to them 
as prospective publishers, in cloth, of the successful 
Syndicate story, "A Tale of Two Towns." Edwards 
submitted galley proofs of the serial to Mr. Cook of the 
Dillingham Company, and ultimately signed a contract 
to have the book published on the usual royalty basis of 
ten per cent. 

For Harte & Perkins, during the year, the Factory 
ground out nickel novels, juvenile serials, one sketch for 
the trade paper and a few detective stories. On Nov. 
28, after he had returned home from New York, he was 
notified: 

113 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



"Much as I regret to inform you of it, by a recent purchase 
of copyright stories we are placed in a position where we will 
not require any further material for any of our five-cent 
libraries for some time to come, so we must discontinue 
orders to you for all this material." 

Edwards^ in a way, had become hardened to messages 
of this kind. The Argosy was an anchor to windward, 
and he resolved to give his attention to serials for Mr. 
White. In December, 1902, and January and February, 
1903, he wrote and forwarded "Ninety, North," a sec* 
ond fantastic story called "There and Back," and the 
Arizona serial "Grains of Gold.*' All three of these 
stories were sold at once, bringing in $700. In a letter 
dated Oct. 14, 1903, Mr. White had this to say about 
"There and Back:'' 

'Thanks for letting me see the enclosed letter regarding 
'Ninety, North.' I am equally pleased with yourself at its 
significance. I am wondering whether you have heard much 
about your story 'There and Back?' My impression is that 
that has been one of the most popular stories you have ever 
written for The Argosy, When I see you I will tell you an 
odd little circumstance that occurred in connection with its 
run in the magazine." 

The circtunstances referred to by Mr. White took 
place in Paris. One of The Argosy's readers happened 
to be in a cafe, looking over proofs of a forthcoming in- 
stallment of "There and Back" while at her luncheon, 
when she heard the story being discussed, in complimen- 
tary terms, by a number of Frenchmen at an adjoining 
table. Strange indeed that Frenchmen should be inter- 
ested in an American story, and stranger still that The 
Argosy's reader should be reading an installment of the 
very same story while men in that foreign cafe were dis- 
cussing it ! 

"3 



\ 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

The first installment of "There and Back/' Mr. 
White informed Edwards, had increased The Argosy's 
circulation seven thousand copies* 

On March 2 Harte & Perkins requested Edwards to 
continue work on the old Five-Cent Library. By taking 
up this work again he would be diminishing the Factory's 
serial output, but he reflected that his fertility in the 
matter of serials would soon have Mr. White over-sup- 
plied. Therefore Edwards decided to go on with the 
nickel weeklies. 

In March, as Mr. MacLean of The Popular Magazine 
once put it, Edwards "came out in cloth," the Dilling- 
ham Company issuing "A Tale of Two Towns" on St. 
Patrick's Day. 

What are the feelings of an author when he opens 
his first book for the first time? If you, dear reader, 
are yet to "get out in cloth" for the first time, then some 
day you will know. But, if you value your peace of 
mind, do not build too gorgeous an air castle on the 
foundation of this printed thing. Printed things are at 
the mercy of the reviewers and, in a larger sense, of the 
great reading public. The reviewers, in nearly every 
instance, were kind with "A Tale of Two Towns." In 
many quarters it was praised fulsomely, but the book 
did not strike that fickle sentiment called popular fancy. 
In six months, Mr. Cook, of the Dillingham Company, 
wrote Edwards that "A Tale of Two Towns" was "a 
dead duck." In the December settlement, however, the 
remains yielded royalties of $96.60. For two or three 

*"There and Back" went through the Fiction Factory in 
twelve days. 

"4 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

years the royalties trailed along, and finally the edition 
was wound up with a pajrment of $1.50. Sic transit 
gloria! 

during January, 1903, a theatrical gentleman re- 
quested Edwards to dramatize a book which Messrs. 
Street & Smith had issued in paper covers. "You can 
change the title/' the gentleman suggested, "and slightly 
change the incidents. In that way it won't be necessary 
to write Street & Smith for permission or, indeed, to let 
them know anything about it." Edwards knew, however, 
that nothing will so surely wreck a writer's prospects as 
playing fast and loose with editors and publishers. He 
refused to consider the theatrical gentleman's proposi- 
tion. Instead, he forwarded his Argosy story, "The 
Desperado's Understudy," upon which Mr. White had 
given him dramatic rights, and offered to make a stage 
version of it. The offer was accepted and a play was 
built up from the story. The theatrical gentleman was 
pleased and said he would give $1,500 for the dramatiza- 
tion. Then, alas! the theatrical gentleman's company 
went on the rocks at the Alhambra Theatre, in Chicago, 
and Edwards had repeated his former playwriting ex- 
perience. 

The two years' work figured out in this wise : 

1902: 

23 Five-Cent Libraries ® $40 each $ 920,00 

8 detective stories & $40 each 32aoo 

4 juvenile serials & $100 each 400.00 

I sketch for trade paper 10.00 

"The Desperado's Understudy/' 250.OQ 

"The Campaign at Topeka," 200.00 

Short stories 67,00 

Total $2i67«oo 

115 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



1903: 

42 Five-Cent Libraries @ $40 each $1680.00 

2 detective stories @ $40 each 80.00 

"Ninety, North," 150.00 

"There and Back," 250.00 

"A Sensational Affair," short story, 15.00 

"Grains of Gold," 300.00 

"Fate's Gamblers," * 100.00 

"The Morning Star Race," short story, 15.00 

"A Game for Two," 200.00 

Royalties on book, "A Tale of Two Towns," 96.60 

"The Point of Honor," 150.00 

Total $3036.60 

*This story sold through Kellogg Newspaper Company, 
Chicago. The two short stories sold to the late lamented 
Wayside Tales, Detroit, Mich. 



As several gentlemen in these times, by the wonderful 
force of genius only, without the least assistance of 
learning, perhaps without being able to read, have made a 
considerable figure in the republic of letters; the modern 
critics, I am told, have lately begun to assert, that all kind 
of learning is entirely useless to a writer, and indeed, no 
other than a kind of fetters on the natural sprightliness 
and activity of the imagination, which is thus weighed 
down, and prevented from soaring to those high flights 
which otherwise it would be able to reach. 

This doctrine, I am afraid, is at present carried much 
too far; for why should writing differ so much from 
other arts? The nimbleness of a dancing-master is not at 
all prejudiced by being taught to move; nor doth any 
mechanic, I believe, excercise his tools the worse by hav- 
ing learnt to use them,-^Fielding, "Tom Jones." 



116 



XVII. 

ETHICS OF THE 
NICKEL NOVEL 

Is the nickel novel easy to write? The .writer who 
has never attempted one is quite apt to think that it is. 
There are hundreds of writers, the Would-be-Goods, 
making less than a thousand a year, who would throw up 
their hands in horror at the very thought of debasing 
their art by contriving at "sensational" five-cent fiction. 
So far from "debasing their art," as a matter of fact 
they could not lift it to the high plane of the nickel novel 
if they tried. Of these Would-be-Goods more anon — ^to 
use an expression of the ante-bellum romancers. Suf- 
fice to state, in this place, writers of recognized stand- 
ing, and even ministers, have written — and some now 
are writing — ^these quick-moving stories. There's a 
knack about it, and the knack is not easy to acquire. No 
less a person than Mr. Richard Duffy, formerly editor 
of Ainslee's and later of the Cavalier, a man of rare 
gifts as a writer, once told Edwards that the nickel novel 
was beyond his powers. 

So far as Edwards is concerned, he gave the best 
that was in him to the half-dime "dreadfuls," and he 
made nothing dreadful of them after all. He has writ- 
ten hundreds, and there is not a line in any one of them 
which he would not gladly have his own son read. In fact, 
his ethical standard, to which every story must measure 
up, was expressed in this mental question as he worked : 
"If I had a boy would I willingly put this before him?" 

"7 



/ 

THE FICTION FfACTORY 



If the answer was No, the incidenV the paragraph, the 
sentence or the word was eliminatedX In 1910 Edwards 
wrote his last nickel novel, turning: hi\ back deliberately 
on three thousand dollars a year (they yere paying him 
$60 each for them then), not because thev were "debas- 
ing his art" but because he could make more money at 
other writing — f or when one is for tv-fourvhe must get 
on as fast as he can. 



The libraries, as they were written by Edwards, were 
typed on paper SJ^" by 13," the marginal stops so 
placed that a typewritten line approximated the same 
line when printed. Eighty of these sheets completed a 
story, and five pages were regularly allowed to each 
chapter. Thus there were always sixteen chapters in 
every story. 

First it is necessary to submit titles, and scenes for 
illustration. Selecting an appropriate title is an art in 
itself. Alliteration is all right, if used sparingly, and 
novel effects that do not defy the canons of good taste 
should be sought after. The title, too, should go hand 
in hand with the picture that illustrates the story. This 
picture, by the way, has demands of its own. In the 
better class of nickel novels firearms and other deadly 
weapons are tabooed. The picture must be unusual and 
it must be exciting, but its suggested morality must he 
high. 

The ideas for illustrations all go to the artist days or 
even weeks in advance of the stories themselves. It is 
the writer's business to lay out this prospective work in- 
telligently, so that he may weave around it a group of 
logical stories. 

118 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

Usually the novels are written in sets of three ; that 
is, throughout such a series the same principal characters 
are used, and three different groups of incidents are 
covered. In this way, while each story is complete in 
itself, it is possible to combine the series and preserve 
the effect of a single story from beginning to end. These 
sets are so combined, as a matter of fact, and sold for 
ten cents. 

Each chapter closes with a "curtain." In other 
words, the chapter works the action up to an interesting 
point, similar to a serial "leave-off," and drops a quick 
curtain. Skill is important here. The publishers of this 
class of fiction will not endure inconsistency for a mo« 
ment. The stories appeal to a clientele keen to detect 
the improbable and to treat it with contempt. 

Good, snappy dialogue is favored, but it must be dia- 
logue that moves the story along. An apt retort has no 
excuse in the yam unless it really belongs there. A mul- 
titude of incidents — ^none of them hackneyed — ^is a prime 
requisite. Complexity of plot invites censure — ^and us- 
ually secures it. The plot must be simple, but it must 
be striking. 

One author failed because he had his hero-detective 
strain his massive intellect through 20,000 words merely 
to recover $100 that had been purloined from an old 
lady's handbag. If the author had made it a million dol- 
lars stolen from a lady like Mrs. Hetty Green, probably 
his labor would have been crowned with success. These 
five-cent heroes are in no sense small potatoes. They 
may court perils galore and rub elbows with death, now 
and then, for nothing at all, but certainly never for the 
mere bagatelle of $100. 

"9 



XVIII 

KEEPING 
EVERLASTINGLY AT IT 

Edwards had not visited New York in 1903, but he 
landed there on Friday, Jan. i, 1904, — ^literally storming 
in on a train that was seven hours late on account of the 
weather. A cab hurried him and his wife to the place 
in Forty-fourth street where the pleasant landlady used 
to hold forth, but they found, alas ! that the old stamp- 
ing ground was in the hands of strangers. It was like 
being turned away from home. 

Where should they go? Edwards remembered that, 
on one of his previous visits to New York, Mr. Perkins 
had recommended the St. George Hotel, over in Brook- 
lyn. The St. George was within a few blocks of the 
south end of the bridge and the offices of Harte & Per- 
kins were in William street, close to the north end. So 
Edwards and his wife went to the Brooklyn hotel and 
there established their headquarters. 

On Jan. 2 Edwards called on the patrons of his 
Factory. The result was not particluarly encouraging. 
Harte & Perkins instructed him to stop work on the 
Five-Cent Library, but said that in about two months 
they would have a new library for him to take care of. 

Edwards had brought with him to the city his dra- 
matic version of "The Tangle in Butte," the play which 
had come so near turning $5,000 into the Factory's 
strong-box. It was Edward's hope that he might be 
able to dispose of the play, but the hope went glimmer- 

122 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

ing when he learned that there were 10,000 actors 
stranded in New York, and that things theatrical were 
generally in a bad way. 

During 1903 Edwards had corresponded with Mr. H. 
H. Lewis, editor of The Popular Magasine, a recent ven- 
ture of Messrs. Street & Smith's. He had submitted 
manuscripts to Mr. Lewis but they had not proved to be 
in line with The Popular 's requirements. It is difficult, 
through correspondence, to discover just what an editor 
wants. The only wayj to get at such a thing properly is 
b y personal interview . If the would-be contributor does 
nof then get tide editor's needs clearly in mind it is his 
own fault. 

Edwards called on Mr. Lewis and had a pleasant 
chat with him. The assistant editor was Mr. A. D. Hall, 
a capable gentleman who had been with Messrs. Street 
& Smith for many years, and with whom Edwards was 
well acquainted. 

At that time Louis Joseph Vance was writing for The 
Popular Magazine^ among others, and Edwards met him 
in Mr. Lewis' office. As Edwards was leaving, after 
outlining a novelette and receiving a commission to write 
it, he paused with one hand on the door-knob. 

"Ill turn in the story, Mr. Lewis," said he, "and I 
hope you'll like it and buy it. " 

Of course he'll like it and buy it," called out Vance. 
You're going to write it for him, aren't you?" 
"Why, yes," returned Edwards, "but—" 
You're not a peddler," interrupted Vance, "to write 
stuff and go hawking it about from office to office. 
We're writers, and when we know what a man wants 
we deliver the goods." 

123 






^i^rf4.iX^ A.L'f^KtL Uf-&i^ 



i*^#^ <yi ^ J».»^ll * t ll,rwMH^< Mi^^ !■■•■■ .tte* 



THE FICTION FACTO 



rr 



and 



This was before the days of "The Brass Bowl 'A and 
Terence O^Rourke^ but already Vance had found ^iim- 
self and was striking the key-note of confidence. 
de nce — ^that^ the word. Back it up with fair abili ty 
e writer wj 

From The Popular's editorial rooms Edwards went 
up Fifth avenue for a call on the editor of The Argosy. 
Much to his disappointment Mr. White was out of town 
for New Year's and would not return until the follow- 
ing week. 

The story which Edwards had presented to Mr. 
Lewis in its oral and tabloid form was one that had been 
written in 1903 and turned down by Mr. White. Before 
offering the manuscript to The Popular, Edwards in- 
tended to rewrite it and strengthen it. 

A typewriter was ordered sent over to the St. George 
Hotel, and on Jan. 3 the rewriting of the novelette was 
begun. The story was called "The Highwayman's Wat- 
erloo," or something to that effect. On the following 
day twenty-four pages of the manuscript were submit- 
ted to Mr. Lewis, won his approval, and the rewriting 
proceeded. 

Two chapters of a serial were also offered to Mr. 
White for examination. The story was called "The 
Skirts of Chance," and had been begun before Edwards 
left home. 

During 1902 and '03 Edwards had worked, at odd 
times, on what he designed to be a "high-class" juvenile 
story. It was 60,000 words in length, when completed 
in the Summer of 1903, and in September he had sub- 
mitted it to Dodd, Mead & Company. Not having heard 
from the story, on this January day that saw him passing 

124 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

out fragments of manuscripts to The Popular and The 
Argosy He went on farther up Fifth avenue and drop- 
ped in to ask D., M. & Co., how "Danny W.," was fare- 
ing at the hands of their readers. He was told that five 
readers had examined the story and that it was then in 
the hands of the sixth! Some of the readers — and this 
came to him privately — ^had turned in a favorable report. 
Because of this, the author of "Danny W.," went back 
to Brooklyn considerably elated. It would be an honor 
indeed to have the book break through such a formidable 
brigade of readers and get into the catalogue of the good 
old house of Dodd, Mead & Company. 

The "highwayman" novelette was finished and sub- 
mitted in its complete form on Jan. 6. On the same day 
Mr. White informed Edwards that he was well pleased 
with the two chapters of "The Skirts of Chance" and 
told him to proceed with it. 

Fortune was on the upward trend for Edwards, and 
he was sent for by Dodd, Mead & Company, on Jan. 15, 
and informed that they would either bring out "Danny 
W.,*' on a royalty or pay a cash price for the book rights. 
Edwards, remembering his disastrous publishing exper- 
ience with "A Tale of Two Towns," a ccented $200 i n 

* ^ Mr. Lewis bought the novelette for $125, and Harte 
& Perkins, on the same day, gave Edwards a new library 
to do — 35,000 words in each story at $50. 

Complete manuscript of "The Skirts of Chance" was 
submitted to Mr. White on Jan. 22, and on Jan. 27 Ed- 
wards received $300 for it. 

By Feb. 8 Edwards had written and sold to Mn 
Lewis another novelette entitled, "The Duke's Under- 
study," for which he received $140. 

125 



I 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

On Feb. 9 he and his wife returned to Michigan. 
Edwards had been in New York forty days and had 
gathered in $965. He left New York with orders for 
Argosy serials and with the new library, "Sea and 
Shore,'* to be turned in at the rate of one story every 
two months. 

In May he was requested to go on with the Old Five- 
Cent Library. These stories were forwarded regularly 
one each week, u/itil November, when orders were again 
discontinued. 

In September, "Danny W.," appeared. As with "A 
Tale of Two Towns,*' the reviewers were more than 
kind to "Danny W.," and there is just a possibility that 
they killed him with kindness. The idea obtains, in sup* 
posedly well-informed circles, that the only way for re- 
viewers to help a book is to damm it utterly. Be this as 
it may, although illustrated in color and put out in the 
best style of the book-maker's art, "Danny W.," did not 
prove much of a success. A California paper bought 
serial rights on the story for $50, and thus the book net- 
ted the author, all told, the modest sum of $250. 

During this year, also, The A. N. Kellogg News- 
paper Company sold serial rights on "Fate's Gamblers" 
for $30, took 50 per cent, as a commission and presented 
Edwards with what was left. 

A short story, "The Camp Coyote," was sold to Mr. 
Titherington, for Munsey's; and Edwards had opened 
a new market in Street & Smith's magazines. Thus was 
brought to a close a fairly prosperous year. 

In 1905 the returns slid backward a little. During 
this year, and the year preceding, some stories which had 
failed with Mr. White were received with favor by Mr. 

xa6 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

Kerr, of The Chicago Ledger — ^at the Ledger price, rang- 
ing from $30 upward to $75. 

The Woman's Home Companion, to which Edwards 
had vainly tried to sell serial rights on "Danny W.," ac- 
cepted a two-part story entitled, "The Redskin and the 
Paper-Talk,*' and paid $200 for it. This is the story 
of which a chapter was lost in the composing room, and 
Edwards received an honorarium of $5 for having a 
carbon duplicate of the few missing pages. 

In 1905, also. The American Press Association did 
business with Edwards to the amount of $30. Another 
market for the Edward's product — ^worth mentioning 
even though the amount of business done was not large. 

The returns for the two years were as follows : 

1904: 

"The Highwayman's Waterloo," $125.00 

"Danny W./' 200.00 

"Danny W.," serial rights 50.00 

"The Skirts of Chance," 300.00 

"The Duke's Understudy," 140.00 

"At Large in Terra Incognita" 175.00 

"The Man from the Stone Age," short story 25.00 

"The Honorable Jim," 250.00 

"Fate's Gamblers" serial rights 15.00 

"A Deal with Destiny," : 150.00 

"The Enchanted Ranch," 7500 

"The Camp Coyote," 40.00 

"Under the Ban," 7500 

"A Master of Graft," 225.00 

26 Five-Cent Libraries ® $40 each 1040.00 

4 Sea and Shore libraries 9 50 each 200.00 

Total $3085.00 

1905: 

"Cornering Boreas," short story $ 30.00 

"The Redskin and the Paper-talk," 200.00 

"The Redskin and the Paper-talk," additional pay't.... 500 

"Mountebank's Dilemma," short story 25.00 

"Helping Columbus," 350.00 

"The Edge of the Sword." 200.00 

127 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



"Yellow Clique," xoo.oo 

"A Mississippi Snarl," 200.00 

"The Black Box," 200.00 

"A Wireless Wooing," short story 15.00 

"The Freelance," 50.00 

"The Luck of Bill Lattimer," 30.00 

"Machine-made Road-agent," short story 15.00 

"The Man from Mars," 275.00 

10 Sea and Shore stories 9 $50 each 500.00 

Total $2195.00 



Good, philosophical Ras Wilson once said to a new re- 
porter, '"Young man, write as you feel, but try to feel 
right. Be good humored toward every one and every- 
thing. Believe that other folks are just as good as you 
are, for they are. Give 'em your best and bear in mind 
that God has sent them, in his wisdom, all the trouble 
they need, and it is for you to scatter gladness and de- 
cent, helpful things as you go. Don't be particular about 
how the stuff will look in print, but let'er go. Some one 
will understand. That is better than to write so dash 
bing high, or so tamashun deep, that no one understands. 
Let^er go." 



There was once a poor man hounded to death by 
creditors. Ruin and suicide vied for his surrender. 
But he was a man of the twentieth century, and flip- 
pantly but with unbounded faith he collected a few 
odd pennies and hied him to a newspaper office. Stop- 
ping scarcely to frame his sentence he inserted a "want" 
advertisement, stating his circumstances and declaring 
he would commit suicide unless aid was proffered. 
Within twenty- four hours he had $250; before another 
sun his employer advanced as much more. Carefully 
advising the newspaper to discontinue the advertise- 
ment, he paid off his creditors — and lived happily ever 
afterward! No, this is not a fairy tale. The time was 
a few weeks ago, the city Chicago and the newspaper. 
The Tribune, The moral is, that originality in writing, 
coupled with a fresh idea, brings a check. 



128 



XIX. 

LOVE YOUR WORK 
FOR THE 
WORK'S SAKE 

The sentiment which Edwards has tried to carry 
through every paragraph and line of this book is this, that 
"Writing is its own reward." His meaning is, that to the 
writer the joy of the work is something infinitely higher, 
finer and more satisfying than its pecuniary value to the 
editor who buys it. Material success, of course, is a 
necessity, imless — ^happy condition! — ^the writer has a 
private income on which to draw for meeting the sordid 
demands of life. But this also is true: A writer even 
of modest talent will have material success in a direct 
ratio with the joy he finds in his work ! — Because, broth- 
er of the pen, when otc takes pleasure in an effort, then 
that effort attracts merit inevitably. If any writing is 
a merciless grind the result will show it — and the editor 
will see it, and reject. 

There are times, however, when doubt shakes the 
firmest confidence. A writer will have moods into which 
will creep a distrust of the work upon which he is at 
that moment engaged. If necessity spurs him on and he 
cannot rise above his misgivings, the story will testify to 
the lack of faith, doubts will increase as defects multiply 
and the story will be ruined. THE WRITER MUST 
HAVE FAITH IN HIS WORK- QUITE APART 
FROM THE MONEY HE EXPECTS TO RECEIVE 
FOR IT. If he has this faith he reaches toward a spir- 

139 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



itual success beside which the highest material success is 
paltry indeed. 

When a writer sits down to a story let him blind his 
eyes to the financial returns, even though they may be 
sorely needed. Let him forget that his wares are to be 
offered for sale, and consider them as being wrought for 
his own diversion. Let him say to himself, "I shall make 
this the best story I have ever written ; I shall weave my 
soul into its warp and whether it sells or not I shall be 
satisfied to know that I have put upon paper the BEST 
that is in me." If he will do this, he will achieve a spir- 
itual success and — as surely as day follows night — ^a ma- 
terial success beyond his fondest dreams. BUT he 
must keep his eye single to the TRUE success and must 
have no commerce in thought with what may come to 
him materially. 

To some, all this may appear too idealistic, too trans- 
cendental. There are natures so worldly, perhaps even 
among writers, as to scoff at the idea of spiritual suc- 
cess. They are overshadowed by the Material, and 
when the Spiritual, which is the true source of their 
power, is no longer the "still, small voice" of their in- 
spiration, they will be bankrupt materially as well. 

A writer cannot hide himself in his work. His in- 
dividuality is written into it, and he may be read be- 
tween the lines for what he is. A creation reflects the 
creator, and that the work may be good the writer 
should have spiritual ideals and do his utmost to live up 
to them. Let him have a purpose, be it never so humble, 
to benefit in some way his fellow-man, and let him hew 
steadily to the line. Love your work for the work's 
sake and material benefits ''will be added tmto you.' ' 

120 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Years ago Edwards fotuid an article in a newspaper 
that appealed to him powerfully. He clipped it out, pre- 
served it and has made it of great help in his writing. 
It is a wonderful "Doubt-destroyer." In the hope that 
it may be an inspiration to others, he reproduces it here : 

STANDARDS OF SUCCESS. 

At a time when material success is so generally regarded! 
as the chief goal of human effort it is interesting to find a 
man in Professor Hadley's position presenting arguments for 
a broader view of the question. In his baccalaureate sermon 
the president of Yale offered the graduates some advice which 
at least they should find stimulating. He does not discredit 
or discourage the ambition for practical success but he makes 
it plain that in his view there is danger in measuring success 
in life **by the concrete results with which men can credit 
themselves." *We should value life," he declares, "as a field 
of action." We should care for tlie doing of things quite 
as much as for the results. Tried by this standard, aspira- 
tion and effort are to be more highly prized than achievement 
itself. The man who sincerely strives for a great object has 
succeeded, whether or not the object is attained or its attain- 
ment brings any tangible reward. 

It is no novelty, of course, to hear a college president up- 
holding ideal standards and rejecting utilitarian views of sue 
cess, but few of the educators have cared to follow their 
theories, as President Hadley does, to their logical conclu- 
sion. Probably a majority of them would applaud Nansen's 
courage in attempting to reach the north pole but would ques- 
tion the utility of the attempt. President Hadley admires 
Nansen simply "because he succeeded in getting so much 
nearer the pole than anybody before him ever did," and 
thinks it is one of the most discouraging testimonies to the 
false standards of the nineteenth century that Nansen feels 
compelled to justify himself on the basis of the scientific re- 
sults of his expedition. Furthermore, a man who tries to get 
to the pole is engaged in a glorious play, "which justifies more 
risk and more expenditure of life than would be warranted for 
a few miserable entomological specimens, however remote 
from the place where they had previously been found." 

The young man of to-day has no lack of exhortations to 
lead the life of strenuous effort. It is as well that he should 
be taught also that the reward for this effort will be barren if 

131 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



the whole object sought be material benefit to himself. Life 
is something to be used. Whether or not it has been success- 
fully used depends not on the results so much as on the object 
sought and the earnestness of the seeking. It is somewhat 
novel to find an American college president expounding this 
philosophy to his students, but the philosophy is, on the whole, 
helpful. It will spur to effort in crises where the desire for 
more material success fails to provide a sufficient incentive. 



A certain New York author is fond of his own 
work, and Robert W. Chambers is responsible for the 
story that he called at one of the libraries to find out 
how his latest book was going. He hoped to have his 
vanity tickled a little. 

"Is in?" he said to the librarian, naming 

his book. 

"It never was out," was the reply. 



What is a great love of books? It is something like 
a personal introduction to the great and good men of all 
past times. Books, it is true, are silent as you see them 
on your shelves; but, silent as they are, when I enter a 
library I feel almost as if the dead were present, and 
I know if I put questions to these books they will an- 
swer me with all the faithfulness and fullness which 
has been left in them by the great men who have left 
the books with us. — John Bright, 



The spring poet has been much exploited in the comic 
papers. The would-be novelist has been plastered with 
signs and tokens until one could not fail to recognize 
him in the dark. But the ordinary, commonplace, ex- 
perienced writer has been so shamefully neglected that 
few realize his virtues. The editor recognizes his manu- 
script as far off as he can see it, and seizes upon it with 
joy. The manuscript is typewritten and punctuated. 
It bears the author's name and address at the top of the 
first page. It is signed with the author's name at the end. 
It is NOT tied with a blue ribbon. No, the blue ribbon 
habit is not a myth. It really exists in every form from 
pale baby to navy No. 4 and in every shape from a hard 
knot to an elaborate rosette. — Munsey^s, 



132 



XX. 

THE LENGTHENING 
LIST OF PATRONS 

During the year 1906 the patrons of the Fiction Fac- 
tory steadily increased in number. The Blue Book, The 
Red Book, The Railroad Man% The All-Story, The 
People's — all these magazines bought of the Factory's 
products, some of them very liberally. The old patrons, 
also, were retained, Harte & Perkins taking a supply of 
nickel novels and a Stella Edwards* serial for The 
Guest. 

Edwards' introduction to The Blue Book came so 
late in the year that the business falls properly within 
the affairs of 1907. The first step, however, was taken 
on Aug. 13, 1906, and was in the form of the following 
letter : 

"My dear Mr. Edwards: 

Why don't you send me, with a view to publication in The 
Blue Book, as we have renamed our old Monthly Story Maga- 
zine, one or more of those weird and fantastic novelettes of 
yours? If you have anything ready, let me see it. I can at 
least assure you of a prompt decision and equally prompt pay- 
ment if the story goes. Anjrthing you may have up to 6,000 
words I shall be very glad to see for The Red Book, 

Yours very truly, 

"Karl Edwin Harriman." 

Here was a pleasant surprise for Edwards. He had 
met Mr. Harriman the year before in Battle Creek, Mich- 
igan. At that time Mr. Harriman was busily engaged 
hiding his talents under a bushel known as The Pilgrim 
Magazine. When the Red Book Corporation of Chi- 
cago, kicked the basket to one side, grabbed Mr. Harri- 

133 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



man out from under it and made off with him, the as- 
pect of the heavens promised great things for literature 
in the Middle West And this promise, by the way, is 
being splendidly fulfilled. 

When you take down your "Who's Who" to look up 
some personage sufficiently notorious to have a place 
between its red covers, if you find at the end of his 
name the words, "editor, author, ' ' you may be sure that 
there is no cloud on the title that gives him a place in 
the book. You will know at once that he must have 
been a good author or he would never have been pro- 
moted from the ranks ; and having been a good author 
he is certainly a better editor than if the case were 
otherwise, for he knows both ends of the publishing 
trade. 

Having been through the mill himself, Mr. Harriman 
has a fellow-feeling for his contributors. He knows 
what it is to take a lay figure for a plot, clothe it in 
suitable language, cap it with a climax and put it on ex- 
hibition with a card: "Here's a Peach! Grab me quick 
for $9.99." Harriman's "peaches** never came back. 
The author of "Ann Arbor Tales," "The Girl and the 
Deal," and others has been successful right from the 
start 

No request for material received at the Edwards' 
Factory ever fails of a prompt and hearty response. A 
short story and a novelette were at once put on the 
stocks. They were constructed slowly, for Edwards 
could give them attention only during odd moments 
taken from his regular work. The short story was fin- 
ished and submitted long in advance of the novelette. 
This letter, dated Sept 18, will show its success : 

134 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



"My Dear Old Man: Why don't you run on here and sec 
me, now and again. Oh, yes, New York's a lot better, but 
we're doing things here, too. About 'Cast Away by Con- 
tract,' it's very funny — such a ridiculously absurd idea that 
it's quite irresistible. How will $75 be for it? O. K.? Ifs 
really all I can afford to pay for a story of its sort, and I do 
want you in the book. Let me hear as soon as possible and I 
will give it out to the artist. 

Very truly yours, 

"K. H." 

And so began the business with Mr. Harriman. He 
still, at this writing (1911), has a running account on the 
Factory's books and is held in highest esteem by the 
proprietor. 

A letter, written May 13, 1905, (a year dealt with in 
a previous chapter), is reproduced here as having a 
weighty bearing on the events of 1906. It was Ed- 
wards' first letter from a gentleman who had recently 
allied himself with the Munsey publications. As a pub- 
lisher Mr. F. A, Munsey is conceded to be a star of the 
first magnitude, but this genius is manifest in nothing 
so much as in his ability to surround himself with men 
capable of pushing his ideas to their highest achieve- 
ment. Such a man had been added to his editorial staff 
in the person of Mr. R. H. Davis. Mr. Davis, like Mr. 
Br3ran, hails originally from Nebraska. Although he dif- 
fers somewhat from Mr. Bryan in political views, he has 
the same powers as a spellbinder. He's Western, all 
through, is "Bob" Davis, bluff, hearty and equally en- 
dowed with stories, snap and sincerity. 

"Dear Sir : 

We would like to have a few pictures of those writers 
who have contributed considerably to our various magazines. 
It is obvious that this refers to you. Therefore, if you will 
send us a portrait it will be greatly appreciated. 

Very truly yours, 

"R. H. Davis." 

135 



The Fiction factory 



Mr. Davis got the picture; also a serial or two and 
some short stories for new publications issued by the 
Munsey Company of which he was editor. Late in 
1905 he called for a railroad serial, and he wanted a 
particularly good one. 

Edwards had never tried his hand at such a story. 
He knew, in a general way, that the "pilot" was on the 
front end of a locomotive, and that the "tender" was 
somewhere in the rear, but his technical knowledge was 
hazy and unreliable. The story, if accepted, was to ap- 
pear in The Railroad Man's Magasine, would be read by 
"railroaders" the country over, and would be damned 
and laughed at if it contained any technical "breaks. ' ' 

Here was just the sort of a nut Edwards liked to 
crack. The perils of the undertaking lent it a zest, and 
were a distinct aid to industry and inspiration. He re- 
solved that he would give Mr. Davis a story that would 
bear the closest scrutiny of railroad men and win their 
interest and applause. To this end he studied railroads, 
up and down and across. He absorbed what he could 
from books, and the rest he secured through personal 
investigation. When the story was done, he submitted 
the manuscript to a veteran of the rails — one who had 
been both a telegraph operator and engineer — and this 
gentleman had not a change to suggest ! Mr. Davis took 
the story aboard. While it was running in the. magazine 
a reader wrote in to declare that it must have beea 
written by an old hand at the railroad game : the author 
of the letter had been railroading for thirty-five years 
himself, and felt positive that he ought to know! "The 
Red Light at Rawlines" scored a triumph, proving the 

135 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



value of study, and the ability to adjust one's self to an 
tmtried situation. 

Edwards had imbibed too much technical knowledge 
to exhaust it all on one story, so he wrote another and 
sent it to Mr. White. The latter informed him : 

"I turned 'Special One-Five-Three' over to The Railroad 
Man's Magazine at once, without reading it, and they are 
sending you a check for it this week, I understand. This 
does not mean that I did not care to consider it for The 
Argosy, I certainly have an opening for more of your stor- 
ies, but when you took the railroad for your theme and 
treated it so intelligently, I think it better that you give The 
Argosy some other subject matter." 

Another story, written this year to order, also serves 
to show that facility in handling strange themes or en- 
vironments does not always depend upon personal ac« 
quaintance with the subject in hand Intelligent study 
and investigation can many times, if not always, piece 
out a lack of personal experience. Blazing a course 
through terra incognita in such a manner, however, is 
not without its dangers. 

Harte & Perkins wished to begin the yearly volume 
of The Guest with a Stella Edwards serial. This story 
was to have, for its background, the San Francisco earth- 
quake. Nearly the whole action of the yam was to 
take place in the city itself. Edwards had never been 
there. He had vague ideas regarding the "Golden 
Gate,** Oakland and other places, but for accurate 
knowledge he was as much at sea as in the case of the 
railroad story. He set the wheels of industry to re- 
volving, however, and familiarized himself so thorough- 
ly with the city from books, newspapers and magazines 
that the editor of The Guest, an old San Francisco 
newspaper man, had this to say about the story: 

137 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



"It will please you to learn that we think 'A Romance of 
the Earthquake' a very interesting story, with plenty of brisk 
action, picturesque in description, and DISPLAYING A 
THOROUGH KNOWLEDGE OF CALIFORNIA'S ME- 
TROPOLIS AND VICINITY." 

Although these are interesting problems to solve, yet 
Edwards, as a rule, prefers dealing with material that 
has formed a part of his own personal experiences. 

His "prospecting" trip for the year brought him into 
New York on Monday, Nov. 12. On Tuesday (his 
"lucky day,** according to the Coney Island seer of 
fateful memory), he called on Mr. White, and Mr. White 
took him across the hall and introduced him to Mr. 
Davis. The latter gentleman ordered four serials and, 
for stories of a certain length, agreed to pay $500 each. 

Next day Edwards dropped in at the offices of 
Street & Smith and submitted a novelette — ^"The Billion- 
aire's Dilemma'* — ^to Mr. MacLean, editor of TA^ Po^w- 
lar Magazine (Mr. Lewis having retired from that pub- 
lication some time before). Mr. MacLean carried the 
manuscript in to Mr. Vivian M. Moses, editor of Peo- 
ple's, and the latter bought it. This story made a hit 
in the People's and won from Mr. George C. Smith, 
of the firm, a personal letter of commendation. Result : 
More work for The People's Magazine. 

About the middle of December, Edwards and his 
wife left for their home in Michigan. They had been 
in the city a month, and during that time Edwards had 
received $1150 for his Factory's products. The year, 
financially, was the best Edwards had so far experi- 
enced; but it was to be outdone by the year that fol- 
lowed. 

Dunng 1907 a great deal of writing was done for 
Mr. Davis. Among other stories subpiitted to him was 

138 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



one which Edwards called, "On the Stroke of Four." 
Regarding it Mr. Davis had expressed himself, May 6, 
in characteristic vein: 

"My dear Colonel: 

Send it along. The title is not a bad one. I suppose it 
will arrive at a quarter past five^ as you are generally late.... 

Now that spring is here, go out and chop a few kindlings 
against the canning of the fruit. This season we are ^oing to 
preserve every dam thing on the farm. In the meantime, put 
up a few bartletts for little Willie. We may drop in provided 
the nest contains room." 

He received an urgent invitation to "drop in." But 
he didn't. He backed out. Possibly he was afraid he 
would have to "pioneer it" in the country, after years 
of metropolitan luxury in the effete East. Or perhaps 
he was afraid that Edwards might read some 
manuscripts to him. Whatever the cause, he never ap- 
peared to claim the "bartletts," made ready for him with 
so much painstaking care by Mrs. Edwards. But this 
was not the only count in the indictment. He sent back 
"On the Stroke of Four!" And this was his message: 

"Up to page io6 this story is a peach. After that it is a 
peach, but a rotten peach, and Fd be glad to have you fix it 
up and return it" 

After Edwards has finished a story he has an in* 
grained dislike for tampering with it any further. How- 
ever, had he not been head over ears in other work, he 
would probably have "fixed up" the manuscript for 
Mr. Davis. In the circumstances, he decided to try its 
fortunes elsewhere. Mr. Moses took it in, paid $400 
for it, and pronounced it better than "The Billionaire's 
Dilemma." 

At a later date, Mr. Davis wanted another sea story 
for Ocean which, at that time, was surging consider- 
ably. "On the Stroke of Four" had been designed to 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

{ill such an order. Inasmuch as it had failed, Edwards 
wrote a second yam which was accepted at $450. 

The sea, and the people who go down to it in ships, 
to say nothing of the ships themselves, were all out of 
Edwards' usual line. He prepared himself by reading 
every sea story he could lay hands on, long or short 
He bought text-books on seamanship and navigation, and 
whenever there were manoeuvers connected with "work- 
ing ship" in a stpry, Edwards puzzled them out with the 
help of the text-books. With both deep-water serials 
he succeeded tolerably well. He is sure, at least, that 
he didn't get the spanker-boom on the foremast, nor the 
jib too far aft. 

Harte & Perkins again favored the Factory with an 
order for a "Stella Edwards" to begin another volume 
of The Guest. This was an automobile story, "The 
Hero of the Car," and was accepted and highly praised. 

Another novelette, "An Aerial Romance," was 
bought by Mr. Moses for The People's Magazine. 

Beginning in March, Edwards had written some 
more nickel novels for Harte & Perkins — ^not the old 
Five-Cent Weekly, for that he was never to do again — 
but various stories, in odd lots, to help out with a par- 
ticular series. On July 14 he was switched to another 
line of half-dime fiction, and this work he kept through* 
out the remainder of the year. 

For the two years the Factory's showing stands as 

follows : 
1906: 

18 nickel novels ® $50 each $ 900.00 

Royalties on book, Dillingham lo^so 

"The World's Wonder," 300.00 

"A Romance of the Earthquake/' 250.00 

"The Sheriff Who Lost and Won," 300,00 

140 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



"The Reporter's Scoop," 60.00 

'The Deputy Sheriff," 40.00 

"The Red Light at Rawlin's," 350.00 

"Cast Away by Contract," 75.00 

"Special One-Five-Three," 350.00 

"The Disputed Claim," 500.00 

"Fencing with Foes," 4SO.00 

"The Billionaire's Dilemma," 200.00 

Total • $3785.20 

1907: 

"Under Sealed Orders," $ 25aoo 

"The Pacific Pearlers," 4SO.00 

"Call of the West," 200.00 

"Wilderness Gold-Hunter," ,.. 500.00 

"Dupes of Destiny," 7500 

"On the Stroke of Four," 400.00 

"The Hero of the Car," 300.00 

"An Aerial Romance," 200.00 

"West-Indies Mix-Up," 60.00 

33 nickel novels @ $50 each 1650.00 

Total • $4085.00 



In that remarkable group of authors who made the 
dime novel famous, the late CoL^oitias ]^g|^ was 
one of the giants. These "ready "writers mougntnoth- 
ing of turning o ut a thousand words of original matt(er^ 
in an ^ow f- in "The day s wl!H! tH^ CMcfc 61 "' OIcT'^c-^ 
■•iWr was unknown, and of keeping it up until a novel 
of 70,000 words was easily finished in a week. But to 
Col. Ingraham belongs the unique distinction of having 
composed and written out a complete story of 3S,ooo 
words with a fountain pen, between breakfast and break- 
fast. His equipment as a writer of stories for boys was 
most varied and valuable, garnered from his experience 
as an officer in the Confederate army, his service both 
on shore and sea in the Cuban war for independence, and 
in travels in Mexico, Austria, Greece and Africa. But 
he is best known and will be most loyally remembered 
for his Buffalo Bill tales, the number of which he him- 
self scarcely knew,and which possessed peculiar value 
from his intimate personal friendship with Col. Cody. 









XXI. 

A WRITER'S 
READING 

That old Egyptian who put above the door of his 
library thSfi "WUfflsJ " Books are the Medici nes of the 
^Soul/' was wise indeed. But the Wise, ever sjnce dook^ 
nave been made, have harped on the advantage of good 
literature, and have said all there is to be said on the 
subject a thousand times over. If one has any doubts 
on this point let him consult a dictionary of quotations. 
No intelligent person disputes the value of books; and 
it should be self-evident that no writer, whose business 
is the making of books, will do so. To the writer books 
are not only "medicines for the soul" but tonics for his 
technique, febrifujges for his rhetorical fevers and pro- 
phylactics for the thousand and one ills that beset his 
calling. A wide course of general reading — ^the wider 
the better — ^is part of the fictionist's necessary equip- 
ment; and of even more importance is a specializing 
along the lines of his craft. 

"Omniverous reader" is an overworked term^ but it 
is perfect in its application to Edwards. From his youth 
up he has devoured everything in the way of books 
he could lay his hands on. The volumes came hap-haz- 
ard, and the reading has been desultory and, for the most 
part, without system. If engaged on a railroad story, 
he reads railroad stories ; if a tale of the sea claims his 
attention, then his pabulum consists of sea-facts and fic- 
tion, and so on. The latest novel is a passion with him, 

142 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



and he would rather read a story by Jade London, or 
Rex Beach, or W. J. Locke than eat or sleep— or write 
something more humble although his very own. He is 
fond of history, too, and among the essayists he loves 
his Emerson. Nothing so puts his modest talents in a 
glow as to bring them near the beacon lights of Genius. 

Edwards has a library of goodly proportions, but it 
is a hodge-podge of ever)rthing under the sun. Thomas 
Carlyle "keeps company" with Mary Johnston on his 
bookshelves, Marcus Aurelius rubs elbows with Frank 
Spearman, "France in the Nineteenth Century" nestles 
dose to "The Mystery" from the firm of White & 
Adams, and four volumes of Thackeray are cheek by 
jowl with Harland's "The Cardinal's Snuff-Box." A 
most reprehensible method of book keeping, of course, 
but to Edwards' it is a delightful confusion. To him 
the method is reprehensible only when he wants a cer- 
tain book and has to spend half a day looking for it. 
Some time, some blessed time — ^he has promised himself 
for years and years, — he will catalogue his books just as 
he has catalogued his clippings. 

Books that concern themselves with the writer's 
trade are many, so many that they may be termed liter- 
ally an embarrassment of riches. If a writer had them 
all he would have more than he needed or could use. 

Books on thg short ^to^ fcy J, B^rg Risenwein an^. 
J5hes""KSapp Reeve, Ed wards consider^ Jibydi^^ 

;y aW W*T)e^fea3"''m2B3rtIines and thoroughlymaS^ 
tered. * *Roget's Thesaurus ' ' is a work which Edwards' 
consulted' linfiMt was dogeared and coverless; he then 
presented it to an impecunious friend with a well-defined 
case of zvriteritis and has since contented himself with 

143 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



the large **Th csaun is^ piction ary of the English La p- 
guage," by *F! A. Siarch, LLrDT ""Tliis'lfranKsnGrm on 
tHTTetriStrlir'gttS^^^ while Webster's 

"Unabridged" closes him in on the right. The Standard 
Dictionary is also within reach. Dozens and dozens of 
books about writers and writing have been read and are 
now gathering dust. A^^rav^ charged 

himselftoiflieja- 

111! ijuijjp '^pTw^^tt.JAi. If he has read to some purpose his 
work will be as near technical perfection as is necessary, 
for unconsciously he will follow the canons of the art; 
while if he loads and fires these "canons*' too often, 
they will be quite apt to burst and blow him into that in- 
nocuous desuetude best described as "mechanical." He 
should exercise all the freedom possible within legitimate 
bounds, and so acquire individuality and "style" — ^what- 
ever that is. 

No sane man in any line of trade or manufacturing 
will attempt to do business without subscribing to one 
or more papers or magazines covering his particular 
field. He wants the newest labor-saving wrinkle, the 
latest discoveries, tips on new markets, facts as to what 
others in the same business are doing, and countless 
other fresh and pertinent items which a good trade paper 
will furnish. A writer is such a man, and he needs 
tabulated facts as much as any other tradesman or manu- 
facturer. Periodicals dealing with the trade of author- 
ship are few, but they are helpful to a degree which it 
is difficult to estimate. 

From the beginning of his work Edwards has made 
it a point to acquire every publication that dealt with 
the business of his Fiction Factory. In eariy years he 

144 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



/r* 



had The Writer^ j)!qA then The Author. When these 
wenfthe way of good but Tiiiprof iuWe things, The 
Editor fortunately happened along, and proved incom- 
parably better in every detail. 

From its initial number The E ditor has been a 
monthly guest at the Factory, &lWSL|ys cordially welcomed 
and given a place of honor. Guide, counsellor and 
friend — it has proved to be all these. 

Edwards subscribes heartily to that benevolent policy 
known as "the helping hand." Furthermore, he tries 
to live up to it. What little success he has had with 
his Fiction Factory he has won by his own unaided ef- 
forts ; but there were times, along at the beginning, when 
he could have avoided disappointment and useless labor 
if some one who knew had advised him. Realizing what 
"the helping hand" might have done in his own case, he 
has always felt the call to extend it to others. Assist- 
ance is useless, however, if a would-be writer hasn't 
something to say and doesn't know how to say it. An- 
other who has had some success may secure the novice 
a considerate hearing, but from that on the matter lies 
wholly with the novice himself. If he has it in him, 
he will win; if he hasn't, he will fail. Edwards first 
advice to those who have sought his help has invariably 
been this: "Subscribe to The Editor." In nearly every 
instance the advice has been taken, and with profitable 
results. 

This same advice is given here, should the reader 
stand in need of a proper start along the thorny path 
of authorship. Nor is it to be construed in any manner 
as an advertisement. It is merely rendering justice 
where justice is due, and is an honest tribute to a pub- 
lication for writers, drawn from an experience of twenty- 
two years "in the ranks." 

145 



XXII. 

NEW SOURCES 
OF PROFIT 

The out-put of the Fiction Factory brought excellent 
returns during the years 1908 and 1909. Industry fol- 
lowed close on the heels of opportunity and the result 
was more than gratifying. The 1908 product consisted 
of forty-four nickel novels for Harte & Perkins, two 
novelettes for The Blue Book, four serials for the Mun- 
sey publications, and one novelette for The People's 
Magazine. This work alone would have carried the re- 
ceipts well above those of the preceding year, but new 
and unexpected sources of profit helped to enlarge the 
showing on the Factory's books. 

The rapidity with which Edwards wrote his serial 
stories — sometimes under the spur of an immediate de- 
mand from his publishers, and sometimes under the less 
relentless spur of personal necessity — seemed to preclude 
the possibility of profit on a later publication "in cloth." 
Only a finished performance is worthy of a durable 
binding. Realizing this, Edwards had never made a de- 
termined effort to interest book-publishers in the stories. 
In the ordinary course of affairs, and with scarcely any 
attention on his part, two serials found their way into 
"cloth." "Danny W.," accepted and brought out by 
Dodd, Mead & Co., was written for book publication, 
and serialized after it had appeared in that form. It 
fell as far short of a "best seller" as did the two repub- 
lished serials. 

146 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

Nevertheless, in spite of, the fact that additional pro- 
fit through publication in cloth seemed out of the ques- 
tion, Edwards wondered if there were not something else 
to be gained from the stories besides the serial rights. 

His stories were dramatic and, in several instances, 
had appealed to play-writers. For a time he had hopes 
that dramatic rights might prove a source of additional 
income. His hopes, in this respect, have not been com- 
pletely dashed, inasmuch as competent hands are at this 
date (September, 191 1) fitting some of his stories for 
the stage. Something may come of it, but his experi- 
ence has made him wary and he is not at all sanguine. 

Eliminating book and dramatic rights from the equa- 
tion, and what remained? A letter from Waltham^ 
Mass., dated April 23, 1908, uncovered possibilities of 
which Edwards had never dreamed. Most of these pos- 
sibilities, as it transpired, were a dream, but, as in the 
matter of dramatic rights, some day the dream may come 
true in a large and substantial manner. Here is the 
letter : 

"Dear Sir: 

If you have not yet disposed of the sole and unrestricted 
rights of translation into the GERMAN language of your books : 
The Billionaire's Dilemma' and *The Shadow of the Unknown/ 
will you permit me to submit them to my GERMAN corre- 
spondents—some of the best known GERMAN PUBLISHERS 
— ^with the idea of effecting a sale? 

I shall require a single copy of The Billionaire's Dilema/ 
but not of The Shadow of the Unknown' having preserved the 
story as it appeared first in the POPULAR,* to send abroad, 
with a statement of the best terms you will make for the casU 
out-right purchase of both book and serial rights. 

If the serial rights of translation in GERMAN belong to 
the POPULAR, you will have to come to a satisfactory un- 
derstanding with them, in order to legally assign to me the 
SERIAL, as well as your own individual, book-rights, because 
all GERMAN publishers insist on serial rights, although they 
*A mistake, the atory appeared in The Bine Boole, 

W 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



seldom or never use them, as MAGAZINES are not good and 
little used there. 

My experience has been, that the MAGAZINE COMPAN- 
IES are very broad in their treatment of their writers, and 
usually willing to re-transfer their SERIAL rights of transla- 
tion, m order to facilitate a sale, and make them universally 
known. 

Of course less is paid for translation rights of stories that 
have only appeared in SERIAL form^in the STATES. 

If any of the publishers I represent purchases 3rour stories, 
you have the best possible (grantee of perfect translation and 
speedy publication. 

Awaiting die courtesy of an early reply and the necessary 
copy of 'The Billionaire's Dilemma,' I have the honor to be, 
dear Sir, Yours very truly, 

"Eugene Niemann."* 

Several guns were fired during this invasion of Ger- 
many, but only one shell "virent home." This was not 
the fault of Mr. Niemann. In Edwards* brief experi- 
ence with him he found him always a scholar and a gen- 
tleman. Sincerity and courtesy were his never-failing 
traits. The pleasant little twists he gave his English, and 
the occasional naive expression that struggled through 
his typewriter, along with the prodigal use of "caps," 
will perhaps excuse a further offering from the corres- 
pondence. Here is the shot that hit the mark : 

"May 12, 1908. 
"Dear Sir:— 

Before I have even had time to forward The Billionaire's 
Dilemma' and 'On the Stroke of Four', and to await your other 
announced stories, a letter comes from one of my German cor- 
respondents, saying he had run tiirough your short stoiy: "The 
Shadow of the Unknown' and would purchase the rights of 
translation if you will accept an offer of FORTY DOLLARS. 

Perhaps you will say, "such an offer is absurd," but first 
let me state to you, that the best books placed in GERMANY 
bring at the most ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, and oftener 
anywhere from FIFTY to ONE HUNDRED, that the chief 

^Edwards uses a ficticious name for this correspondent 

M8 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



profit, is not a monetary one, rather the spreading of the writ- 
er's name and fame. 

"The Shadow of the Unknown/ writes the publisher, is a 
very short story, and if you will be guided by my Hong exper- 
ience, dear Sir, you will accept the offer, in order to make our 
name popular and facilitate a better sale of your following stor- 
ies, which I shall take double pleasure in forwarding, feeling 
surer of a good offer. 

Were I guilty of business indiscretion, you would be surpris- 
ed to know the names of the already published 'BOOKS' I 
have sold and am daily selling the GERMAN rights of, for 
hardl;^ a monetary consideration at all, and yet the literary sat- 
isfaction quite out-balances all other considerations, does it not? 

I enclose the customary form of assignment, which you can 
sign and have duly witnessed by a NOTARY PUBLIC, if you 
see fit to accept the offer, and which you will please then send 
me per AMERICAN EXPRESS C. O. D. subject to examina- 
tion to avoid every possible chance of error. 

The personal receipt need not be signed before the NOTARY 
PUBLIC, your signature without witness suffices. 

Hoping to do much better for you with your other fine stor- 
ies and appreciating your confidence, I remain, dear Sir, 

Very truly yours, 

"EUGENE NIEMANN." 

After the dust had settled, and the invasion was fin- 
ally completed, $40 had been added to the year's receipts 
of the Fiction Factory; but Edwards clings to the hope 
that some day more of his "fine stories'* may be greed- 
ily bought by the German publishers. These German 
publishers are honorable enough to buy, where they 
might pirate, and there are a few American publishers 
who might take lessons from them in business probity. 
With a small tidbit from a letter of May 18, the pleasant 
Mr. Niemann will be dismissed : 

"Later, with your permission, I will take up the stories I sell 
in GERMANY for sale in FRANCE, DENMARK, NORWAY 
and SWEDEN? 

The monetary remuneration in the SCANDINAVIAN coun- 
tries is yet smaller than in GERMANY, but the people are fine 
readers, and that for all, who truly LOVE their ART is the 
chief standpoint I take it?!" 

149 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



ISiriny the latter part of July and the earlier part of 
A^M!M^ Edwards was in New York for a cou^de of 
^i^St^ As usual when in the city he worked even hard- 
tr ^v^ he did at home. Two nickel novels were writ- 
1^^ a serial was put through the Factory for Mr. Davis, 
Mvi Ke collected $200 for a novelette which he sold to 
tt^fit^S^ There was an interesting, almost a humorous, 
tlt^in^^tance connected with the serial. 

Kdwards called the story "The Man Who Left." 
\M\eii the manuscript was completed he took it in to Mr. 
))aviai and two or three days later called again to learn 

tta ttte. 

The Munsey offices are up close to the roof in the 
Flatiron building. The lair of the editor who presides 
over the destinies of The All-Story Magazine, The Rail-- 
f>v«id Man's Magazine sndThe Scrap Book* is flanked on 
Me side by a prospect of space that causes the occasional 
ealler to hang on to his chair. Across from this dizzy 
void is a partition hung with framed photographs of con- 
tributors — a rogues' gallery in which Edwards, when he 
last saw the collection, had a prominent place. Nortb of 
an imaginary line drawn between the window and the 
partition sits the editor, grimly prominent against a moi- 
to-covered wall. As the caller faces the editor he is, of 
course, confronted by placards reminding him that "This 
is My Busy Day— Cut it Short,'' and "Find A Man for 
the Job not A Job for the Man,'' and others cunningly 
calculated to put him on tenterhooks. 

To this place, therefore, came Edwards, proffering 
inquiries about "The Man Who Left. ' ' He read fateful 
things in the august countenance, and he was not sur- 

•Now no more cui The CaTaUer, the former monthly, now 
a weekly has "aA>sorbed" The Scmy Boek. 

ISO 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

prised when Mr. Davis handed him a lemon, but he was 
surprised when he took the lemon back. 

"Rotten," said Mr. Davis, "r-r-rottenl When I'm 
out for peaches, Edwards, I side-step the under-ripe per- 
simmons. 'The Man Who Left' ought to have made his 
get-away along about line one, paragraph one, chapter 
one; and then if he had staid out plumb to the place 
where you have written 'Finis' this gorgeous but uncon- 
vincing tale would have been vastly improved. Am I a 
Jasper that you seek thus to inveigle me into purchasing 
a gold-brick? Here, take it away! Now let me have 
it again. I am going to give you three hundred for it 
and tuck it away in the strong-box. Later you are to 
evolve, write and otherwise put upon paper a fictional 
prize for which The Man Who Left' will be returned to 
you in even exchange. Do you get me? 'Nuf f said. I 
think you're out of mazuma, and that's why I'm doing 
this. My friends '11 ruin me yet!" 

Now the humor, if there is any, fits in about here: 
Edwards went back to Michigan and wrote a serial which 
he sent on to replace "The Man Who Left." Here is 
the letter in reply: 

My dear Edwards : 

While I was away on my vacation, some one spilled a pit- 
cher of milk. In other words, they put **The Man Who Left*' 
to press for The All-Story Magcutine, and it is now too late to 
yank it back. That's the trouble of leaving anything in the 
safe that should not be there. You and I, however, being . 
practical men, can understand the facility with which the yam 
was nabbed up. 

Now, the point is, I can use the "Mydus" yam and get a 
check off to you next week, provided I have some basis on 
which to operate. What's the lowest price for which you will '^ 

ISI „ 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



give me 'Mydus/ call all previous arrangements equal, and let 
Slings stand as they are. The way to trim me and square ac- 
counts is to come back with a quick, short, sharp, cheap reply, 
and let it go at that. 

Hurry up this 'Mydus' business and we'll see what we can 
do. Sincerely yours, 

"R. H. DAVIS." 

The spilling of that "pitcher oi milk" while Mr. 
Davis was away on his vacation had netted Edwards 
just an even $300. 

Another source of profit from the serial stories which 
the Fiction Factory had been turning out for years was 
revealed to Edwards in a letter dated Nov. 19, 1908. 
This, like the matter of translation rights, came to Ed- 
wards as a pleasant surprise; but, unlike the "German 
invasion," it was to prove vastly more profitable. Here 
is the letter : 

"Dear Sir : 

Upon looking over the files of The Argosy we find that you 
have written the following serial stories. Are the book rights 
of these your property? If not, can you get Mr. Munsey to 
give them to you? If you can, and will lengthen the stones to 
about 75,000 words, we will pay you $100 each for the paper 
book rights of same. 

We cannot offer you more, as we would put these out in 
cheap paper edition, but this publication would do a great deal 
toward popularizing your name and work with the class of 
readers who buy The Argosy and other fiction magazines. 

The stories are as follows: (Here were listed the titles of 
seven Argosy serials.) Very truly yours, 

"STREET & SMITH." 

Edwards caught at this opportunity. He failed to 
realize, at the time, just how much work was involved 
in lengthening the stories for paper-book publication. In 
his reply to Street & Smith he offered a list of forty- 
five serials, and promised others if they could use so 
many. He was requested, on Dec. 4, to forward copies 



iSa 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



of all the stories for reading. The same letter contained 
this paragraph: 

"I note that your letter is dated December 2nd and that you 
state you expect to be in New York inside of three weeks. I 
think it might be to our mutual advantage if you could come 
on in a week or ten days, for there is a new line of work which 
I think you could do for us about which I would like to talk 
with you." 

Just before Christmas Edwards and his wife arrived 
in New York. On some of the serials which had ap- 
peared in the Munsey magazines Edwards owned all but 
serial rights, but there were many more wherein all 
rights were held by the publishers. 

The folly of a writer's selling all rights when dis- 
posing of a story for serial publication dawned upon Ed- 
wards very strongly, at this time. The conviction was 
driven "home" at a little dinner which Edwards tender- 
ed to several editors and readers. During the course of 
the dinner one of the guests — an editor in charge of a 
prominent and popular magazine — ^averred bluntly that 
"any writer who sells all rights to a story to a magazine 
using the story serially, is a fool." 

With Edwards this sale of all rights had resulted 
from carelessness more than anything else, and had he 
not been dealing with friends like Mr. White and Mr. 
Davis he might have suffered financial loss because of 
his folly. Two or three interviews with Mr. Davis se- 
cured the paper-book rights, but with the understanding 
that if any of the lengthened stories were brought out 
in cloth, one-half of the royalties were to go to The Mun- 
sey Company. 

In the whole list there were only seven stories long 
enough for immediate issue in paper-book form. These 
were paid for, at once. The other stories fell short of 

153 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

the required ntunber of words all the way from 5,000 to 

30,000 words. There was no profit to Edwards in 
lengthening the stories at the price of $100 each. What 
benefit he derived — and is now deriving, for the work 
continues — ^was in the advertising which the wide circu- 
lation of the paper-covered books afforded him. Also, 
Edwards considered the value of cementing his friend- 
ship with the old-established publishing house of Street 
& Smith, a house noted for the fairness of its dealings 
with contributors and for the prompt payment for all 
material upon acceptance. "Making good" with pub- 
lishers of such high standing is always of inestimable 
value to a writer. 

One of Street & Smith's editors, at this time, was St. 
George Rathborne, author of "Dr. Jack" and dozens of 
other popular stories that have appeared in paper covers. 
Here was another author who had become an editor, 
bringing to his duties an experience and ability that made 
for the highest success. Mr. C. A. MacLean, another mem- 
ber of the Street & Smith editorial staff , was also a gen- 
tleman with whom Edwards had occasional dealings. Mr. 
MacLean, beginning at the lowest rtmg of the ladder, had 
mounted steadily to the post of editor of The Popular 
Magazine and Smith's Magazine, by sheer force of his 
own merit pushing those publications to the forefront of 
magazines of their class. To these gentlemen, and par- 
ticularly to Mr. Rathborne,* Edwards is indebted for 
unfailing kindness and courtesy, and takes this means to 
acknowledge it. 

*Mr. Rathborne has recently given up his editorial duties and 
has retired to what seems to be the ultimate goal of writers 
and editors — a farm. He is somewhere in New Jersey. 

154 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

The special work which was mentioned in Street & 
Smith's letter of Nov. 19 consisted of a new weekly 
publication for which Edwards was to furnish the copy. 
Seventy-five dollars each was to be paid for these 
stories. 

With all this work ahead of the Fiction Factory, the 
year 1909 dawned in a blaze of prosperity. During 
1909 Edwards found himself so busy with the paper- 
books and the other publication that he had no time for 
serial stories. After thirty-four issues the new publica- 
tion was discontinued, and Edwards went back to writ- 
ing novels for Harte & Perkins, at $60 each. 

During 1909 Edwards tried his hand at moving pic- 
tures. The alluring advertisements under the scare- 
head, "We Pay $10 to $100 for Picture Plays," caught 
his eye and fired his ambition. He wrote a scenario, 
sent it in, and waited expectantly for his $100. He had 
been only two hours preparing the ".photoplay" and it 
looked like "easy money." When the check arrived it 
was for $10! He wrote in to ask what had become of 
the remaining $90? Thus answered The Vitagraph 
Company of America, Oct. 27, '09 : 

"In regard to the payment for a manuscript of this charac- 
ter, we never give more than ten dollars, for two or three rea- 
sons. 

In the first place, we only use the idea. The manuscript has 
to be revised in almost every instance in order to put it in 
practical shape for the directors. 

Again, they contain an idea which is more or less stereotyped 
or conventional and cannot be claimed as entirely original only 
as applied to the action of the play. 

Regarding your own idea, I will frankly say that the same 
idea has often been embodied in other plays, but the general sug- 
gestion of it gives a new phase to the action of the idea. 

The Editor merely surmises, or so we think, that a 
thoroughly original manuscript in practical shape would be 

155 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



worth at least $25, but we seldom get one of that kind. We 
would welcome one at any time and wotdd pay its full value. , 

The members of our staff, who are obliged to write practical 
working scenarios, appreciate the above facts because they know 
what it means to perfect a scenario with the synopsis of the 
story, the properties, settings, &c., &c. 

We merely state these things so you will understand that we 
are thoroughly fair in your case and will certainly be so in 
every instance. 

Ideas, if they are entirely original, would be worth more 
than ten dollars, but they are scarcer than hen's teeth at any 
price. 

We find most of the ideas which we receive, and we receive 
hundreds of them, are nothing but repetition or old ones in new 
guises. 

Again we will say, if we can get original ideas we will pay 
their full value." 

Another case of sic transit — ^this time, sic transit 

masuma. 

Here follows a transcript from the Factory's books 

for the two years with which this chapter has dealt : 

1908: 

Dillingham, last rojralities on "Tales of Two Towns".. $ 1.50 

45 nickel novels & $50 each 2250. 

"The Shadow of the Unknown" 200. 

"The Shadow of the Unknown," translation rights.... 40. 

"Parker & O'Fallon" 300. 

"In the Valley's Shadow" 200. 

"The Man Who Left," 300. 

"Trail of the Mydus," 350. 

"Just A Dollar," 350. 

"Frisbie's Folly," 350. 

"The Man Called Dare," 300. 

"The Streak of Yellow," 200. 

7 paper-book rights at $100 each, 700. 

Total, $5541.50 

1909: 

34 issues "Motor Boys" @ $75 each $ 2550. 

21 paper-book rights ^ $100 each 2100. 

9 nickel novels ® $60 each, 540. 

"The Stop on the 'Scutcheon," short story 35. 

156 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Moving-picture, lo. 

"Brealong Even," short story 40. 

"Divided by Eight," short story ■. 35. 



Total • $ S3IO. 



The following advertisement from an English paper, 
which is vouched for, once more illustrates the truth of 
the statement that fact is stranger than fiction. The 
owner of the houses, it may be mentioned, was ill in 
bed, far away, and the neighbors evidently did not ques- 
tion the right of the men to do as they did. Tlie 
advertisement is as follows: 

LOST. — ^Three fine cottages have mysteriously dis- 
appeared from the property Nos. 296, 298 and 300 Hi^ 
road, Willesden Green, London. Please communicate 
with J. M. Godwin, 71 Bank Street, London, W. C. 



O. Henry told a whimsical tale of what he considered 
unfair competition in the short story field. He was in 
the office of a big magazine, when he witnessed the re- 
turn to a dejected looking young fellow of a couple of 
manuscripts. "I am sorry for that fellow," said the 
editor. "He came to New York from New Orleans a 
year ago, and regularly brings some stories to our 
office. We can never use them. He doesn't make a dol- 
lar by his pen, and he is getting shabby and pale." 
A month or so later O. Henry saw the same writer in 
the same office, and the editor was talking to him 
earnestly. "You had better go back to New Orleans," 
said that gentleman. "Why?" said the young man. 
*'Some day I may write a story you may want." "But 
you can do that just as well in New Orleans," said the 
editor, "and you can save board bills." "Board bills," 
ejaculated the young man. "What do I care about 
board bills! I have an income of twenty thousand a 
year from my father's estate.' 



tt 



157 



XXIII. 

THE INJUSTICE 
OF IT 

The commercial world may hearken sentimentally to 
that plaintive ballad, "Silver Threads Among the Gold/' 
as it floats into the Emporium from a street organ, but 
the commercial world never allows sentiment to inter- 
fere with business. When a man presents himself and 
asks for a job, he is examined for symptoms of decrepi- 
tude before his mental abilities are canvassed. The wise 
seeker for place, before making the rounds of the Want 
Column, will see to it that his hair is of a youthful color, 
for there is nothing so damned by the octopus of trade 
as hoary locks. A bottle of walnut juice, carefully ad- 
ministered, may bridge the gap and lead from failure to 
success. 

"New blood ! ' ' that's the cry. "Age is too conserva- 
tive, too partial to the old and outworn standards, too 
apt to keep in a rut. Give us the mop of black hair and 
the bright, snappy eye! Give us energy and brilliant 
daring and a fresh view-point! We'll be taking a few 
chances, but what of that? We must follow the 
fashion." 

Some of the publishers have gone to the extreme of 
the prevailing mode. The yearling from the football 
field, if he happens to have been sporting editor of the 
college journal, is brought to the sanctum, shoved into 
the chair of authority, and given $50 a week and the 
power to go ahead and be ruthless. He rarely dis- 

158 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



s 



z 



appoints his employer. Whenever he does, his employer 
is to be congratulated. Usually, however, he sticks to 
his schedule. He thinks he is Somebody, and attempts 
to prove it by kicking all the old contributors out of the 
office and forwarding invitations for manuscripts to 
every member of the Qass of 'lo. 

There is no writer of experience who has failed to 
meet this sort of editor. For years a publishing house 
may have steadily increased in power and prestige 
through the loyalty and labor of the old contributor, only 
to give some darling of the campus a desk and the auth- 
ority to begin oslerizing faithfulness and ability. 

This injustice would be humorous were some of its 
aspects not so tragic. The smug publishers themselves 
may have something to answer for. They have wrung 
their ratings in Dun and Bradstreet from the old con- 
tributor, and when they abandon a policy that has brought 
success they are steering through troubled waters and 
into unknown seas. 

For anything short of inccnnpetence this casting 
aside of the old in order to try out the new is reprehen- 
sible. To weather a decade or two of storm and stress 
a writer must have been versatile. Versatility increases 
with his years, and he is as capable of brilliant daring 
and a fresh viewpoint as any youth in the twenties. 

Times out of number this has been made manifest. 
Stories disguised with a pen-name and a strange type- 
writer have won welcome and success where the old 
name and the old typewriter would have insured rejec- 
tion. Note this from one who has been twenty-five 
years at the game: 

Z59 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



"In the near-humorous line I may mention the fact that 
I once tried to get the editor of a certain paper to let me 
furnish him a serial, but he didn't think I could write it. Soon 
afterward a friend who had been contributing serials to that 
partictdar paper was asked by the editor to furnish a serial 
As it chanced, the writer happened to be engaged in other work. 
So he came to me and wanted to know if I could not write the 
desired serial. When I informed him that the editor had 
turned my offer down, he then suggested that I write the serial 
and let him send it in under his own name. It was a chance to 
try the sagacity of that particular editor. I salved my con- 
science, wrote the serial, and my tjrpewritten copy was submitted 
to the editor under the name of my friend. The serial was 
accepted, with medals thrown all over it — ^my literary friend 
being informed that it was just the thing the editor wanted, 
and that he had hard work to get authors who could suit his 
view as to what was available for his particular publication. 
My friend got the honor, if there was any, of seeing the serial 
run under his name; and I got the money for doing the work." 

If an author ever suffers an editor's contempt, what 
must the editor suffer on being caught red-handed in 
such a way as this? It is the worm's prerogative to 
turn whenever it finds the opportunity. 

Illustrating this point, and several other points with 
which this chapter is concerned, the following letter 
from another writer, who has been turning out success- 
ful manuscripts for upward of twenty years, is repro- 
duced : 

"Dear Bro. Edwards: 

You certainly DO put a poser to me. At the present time 
I have difficulty in seeing anything that has happened to me 
in the twenty-odd years of my following the literary game in 
an3rthing but a tragic light I believe my success, such as it 
was, was tragic. At least, it has rivetted my reputation to a 
certain class of literature — ^heaven save the mark! — and makes 
it almost impossible for me to sell anything of a bettter quality. 
I might tell you of plenty of cruel things that have been done 
to me by publishers and editors when they knew or suspected 
that I was hard up; and plenty of silly things done to me by 
the same folk when they thought I didn't particularly NEED 
their money. But funny things ? 

x6o 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



It's the point of view makes the thing funny. The child 
pulling the wings off a fly to see the insect crawl over the 
window pane is amused; but I don't suppose the fly sees 
the humor of the situation. I could tell you tales of submit- 
ting the same manuscript three times to an editor whom we 
both know well, having it shot through with criticism the first 
two times and then having it accepted and paid for at extra 
rates within two years of the first submission, and without even 
a word of the title changed! Is THAT the kind of an inci- 
dent you want? 

One of the funniest things that ever happened to me was 
that an editor of a popular magazine used to say that my stuff 
resembled Dickens, and when I wrote half-dime novels the 
readers used to write in and say the same. The quality of mind 
possessed by the scholarly editor and the street boys who read 
'Bowery Billy* must be somewhat the same— eh? 

There was once a magazine that bore as its title the name 
of a publisher as famous as any American ever saw, and the 
editor bought a story of me at die rate of half a cent a word, 
and owed me two years for it. Finally, one time when I was 
very hard up I went to the office and hung around until I could 
see the 'boss' and put it up to him to pay me. He did. He 
knocked off 33 1-3 per cent for 'cash.' Pretty good, eh? 

I tell you, Edwards, there's nothing funny in the game that 
I can see — ^not for the so-called literary worker. The gods may 
laugh when they see a man with that brand of insanity on him 
that actually forces him to write. But I doubt if the writer 
laughs — ^not even if he writes a 'best seller.' For success en- 
tails turning out other successes, and that is hard work. Ex- 
cuse me ! I am going back to the farm. I will write only when 
I have to, and only as long as my farm will not support me. 
I've got hold of a pretty good place cheap, down here with the 
outlook of making a ^ood living on it in time. No more the 
Great White Way, with the Dirty Black Alley behind it, in 
mine! I am not going to carry my hat in my hand around to 
editors' offices and take up coUections for long. Besides, most 
of the editors blooming now are just out of college and are 
not dry behind the ears yet. They think that Johnny Go-bang, 
who edited the sporting page in the Podunk University 
Screamer, knows more about writing fiction than the old fel- 
lows who have been at it a couple of decades. And I reckon 
they are right. They are looking for 'fresh' material; some of 
it is pretty 'raw* as well as fresh. I fooled an editor the other 
day by sending a manuscript on strange paper, written on a 
new typewriter, and with an assumed name attached. Sold the 
story and got a long letter of encouragement from the editor. 

i6x 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Great game— encouraging *new' writers! About on a par with 
the scheme some rum sellers have of washing their sidewalks 
with the dregs of beer kegs. The spider and fly game. Now. 
if I told that editor what an ass he had made of himself, would 
he ever buy another manuscript of me again? I fear not! 

Perhaps I am pessimistic, Brother Edwards. There's no real 
fun in the writing game — ^not for the writer, at least. Not 
when he is forty years old and knows that already he is a 'has- 
been/ Good luck to you. Hope your book is a success, and^ if 
I really knew just what you wanted I'd try to whip something 
into shape for you. For you very well know that, if other fic- 
tion writers give you incidents for your book, they'll mostly be 
fiction! That is the devil of it. If a fiction writer cuts a 
sliver off his thumb while paring the corned beef for dinner, 
he will make out of the story a gory combat between his hero 
and a horde of enemies, and give details of the carnage fit to 
make his own soul shudder. 

I hope to meet up with you again some time. But pretty 
soon when I go to New York I'll wear my chin- whiskers long 
and carry a carpet4>ag; and you bet I'll fight shy of editor^ 
offices." 

Another example of injustice to writers which, how- 
ever, happened to turn out well for the writer : 

"I offered a short serial to a certain newspaper S3mdicate. 
Soon I received a lettter saying they could pay me $200 for the 
serial rights. Before my letter accepting the offer reached 
them, I had another letter from the syndicate withdrawing the 
offer. The editor stated pathetically that the proprietor had re- 
turned and had asked him to withdraw it. I then sent the ser- 
ial to a Chicago newspaper, which paid me $200 for serial rights 
—BUT NEVER PUBLISHED THE STORY. Fmally I re- 
wrote the story, had it published as a book by a leading East- 
em publishing house, and it sold well." 

Here, again, is injustice of another kind: 
"Once a certain Eastern magazine authorized me to go to 
Santa Fe, New Mexico, and write a description of a Pueblo 
dance and of Pueblo life, and send the manuscript on with 
photographs for illustration. I did the work. And I was re- 
warded by the generous editor with a check for $20! You can 
imagine how profitable that particular sttmt was, for I took 
a week's time and paid my own expenses. But not out of that 
twenty. There wasn't enough of it to go 'round." 



162 



XXIV. 

WHAT SHALL 
WE DO 
WITH IT? 

Edwards wrote only one serial story during 1910, 
and turned his hand to that merely to bring up the fin- 
ancial returns and leave a safe margin for expenses. 
Nickel novels, a few short stories, a novelette for The 
Blue Book and the lengthening of two stories for paper- 
book publication comprised the year's work. He "sol- 
diered" a little, but when a writer "soldiers" he is not 
necessarily idle. Edwards' thoughts were busy, and the 
burden of his reflections was this : Heaven had endow- 
ed him with a small gift of plot and counter-plot, and a 
little art for getting it into commercial form; but were 
his meager talents producing for him all that they 
should? Was the purely commercial aim, although 
held to with a strong sense of moral responsibility, the 
correct aim? After a score of years of hard work did 
he find himself progressing in any but a financial direc- 
tion? Forgetting the past and facing the future with 
eyes fixed at a higher angle, how was he to proceed with 
his "little gift of words?" What should he do with it? 

In the bright summer afternoons Edwards would 
walk out of his Fiction Factory and make a survey of it 
from various points. He was always so close to his 
work that he lost the true perspective. He was familiar 
with the minutiae, the thousand and one little details 
tha»t went to make up the whole, but how did it look in 

163 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

the "all-together,'* stripped of sentiment and beheld in 
its three dimensions? 

Paradoxically, the work appeared too commercial in 
some of its aspects, and not commercial enough in oth- 
ers. The sordid values were due to the demand which 
came to Edwards constantly and unsolicited, and which 
it was his unvar)ring policy always to meet. "All's fish 
that comes to the writer's net" was a sa3ring of Ed- 
wards' that had cozzened his judgment. He was giving 
his best to work whose very nature kept him to a dead 
level of mediocrity. And within the last few years he 
had become unpleasantly aware that at least one editor 
believed him incapable of better things. This was large- 
ly Edwards' fault. Orders for material along the same 
old lines poured in upon him and he hesitated to break 
away from them' and try out his literary wings. 

Years before he had faced a similar question. The 
same principal of breaking away from something that 
was reasonably sure and regular for something else not 
so sure but which glowed with brighter possibilities, was 
involved. Vaguely he felt the call. He was forty-four, 
and had left behind him twenty-odd years of hard and 
conscientious effort. As he was getting on in years so 
should he be getting on with some of his dreams, before 
the light failed and the Fiction Factory grew dark and 
all dreaming and doing were at an end. 

One evening in Christmas week, 1910, he mentioned 
his aspirations to a noted editor with whom he happened 
to be at dinner. The book that was to bring fame and 
fortune, the book Edwards had always been going to 
write but had never been able to find the time, was un- 

164 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

der discussion. *' Write it," advised the noted one, 
"but not under your own name." 

Edwards fell silent. What was there in the work 
he had done which made it impossible to put "John Mil- 
ton Edwards" on the title page of his most ambitious 
effort? Were the nickel novels and the popular paper- 
backs to rise in judgment against him? He could not 
think so then, and he does not think so now. 

"Why don't you write up your experiences as an 
author?" inquired the editor a few moments later. 
"You want to be helpful, eh? Well, there's your 
chance. Writers would not be the only ones to wel- 
come such a book, and if you did it fairly well it ought 
to make a hit." 

This suggestion Edwards adopted. Having the 
courage of convictions directly opposed to the noted 
editor's, the other one he will not accept. 

The reflections of 1910 began to bear fruit in 191 1. 
With the beginning of the present year Edwards gave 
up the five-cent fiction, not because — as already stated 
in a previous chapter — ^he considered it debasing to his 
"art," but because he needed time for the working out 
of a few of his dreams. 

Presently, as though to confirm him in his determin- 
ation, two publishing houses of high standing requested 
novels to be issued with their imprint. He accepted both 
commissions, and at this writing the work is well ad- 
vanced. If he fails of material success in either or both 
these undertakings, by the standards elsewhere quoted 
and in which he thoroughly believes, the higher success 
that cannot be separated from faithful effort will yet 
be his. And it will suffice. 

165 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Even in 1910 Edwards had been swayed by his 
growing convictions. Almost unconsciously he had be- 
gun shaping his work along the line of higher achieve- 
ment. During 191 1 he has been hewing to the same 
line, but more consistently. 

Edwards has demonstrated his ability to write mov- 
ing picture scenarios that will sell. But is the game 
worth the candle? Is it pleasant for an author to see 
his cherished Western idea worked out with painted 
white men for Indians and painted buttes for a back- 
ground ? Of course, there are photoplays enacted on the 
Southwestern deserts, with real cowboys and red men 
for "supers," but somewhere in most of these perform- 
ances a false note is struck. One who knows the West 
has little trouble in detecting it. 

This, however, is a matter of sentiment, alone. The 
nebulous ideas most scenario editors seem to have as to 
rates of payment, and the usually long delay in passing 
upon a "script," are important details of quite another 
sort. And, furthermore, it is unjust to throw a credit- 
able production upon the screen without placing the 
author's name under the title. Of right, this advertis- 
ing belongs to the author and should not be denied him. 

In 1910 a moving picture concern secured a conces- 
sion for taking pictures with Buffalo BtU's Wild West 
and Pawnee Bill's Far East Show, and Edwards was 
hired to furnish scenarios at $35 each. He furnished a 
good many, and of one of them Major Lillie (Pawnee 
Bill) wrote from Butte, Montana, on Sep. 2; 
"Friend Edwards: 

I saw one of the films run off at a picture house a few 
days ago and I think they are the greatest Western scenes that 
I have ever witnesed — that is, they are the truest to life. I had 

a letter from Mr. C yesterday, and he thinks they are fine. 

Your f riend» 

"G. W. Lime," 

166 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

For a time Edwards thought his faith in the moving 
picture makers was about to be justified. But he was 
mistaken. He received a check for just $25, which 
probably escaped from the fibn men in an unguarded 
moment, and no further check, letter or word has since 
come from the company. The proprietors of the Show 
had nothing to do with the picture people* and regretted, 
though they could not help the loss Edwards had suf- 
fered. 

When the moving picture writers are assured of bet- 
ter prices for their scenarios, of having them passed 
upon more promptly and of getting their names on the 
aims with their pictures, the business will have been 
shaken down to a more commendable basis. Possibly 
the film manufacturers borrow their ideas of equitable 
treatment for the writer from some of the publishing 
houses. 

The "hack" writer, in many editorial offices, is 
looked down upon with something like contempt by the 
august personage who condescends to buy his "stuff 
and to pay him good money for it. Perhaps the "hack" 
is at fault and has placed himself in an unfavorable 
light. Writers are many and competition is keen. 
Among these humble ones there are those who have suf- 
fered rebuff after rebuff until the spirit is broken and 
pride is killed, and they go cringing to an editor and 
supplicate him for an assignment. Or they write him: 
"For God's sake do not turn down this story! It is the 
bread-line for me, if you do." 

Did you ever walk through the ante-room of a big 
publishing house on the day checks are signed and given 
out? Men with pinched faces and ragged clothes sit in 

ii7 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

the mahogany chairs. They have missed the high mark 
in their calling. They had high ambitions once — ^but 
ambitions are always high when hope is young. They 
are writing now, not because they love their work but 
because it is the only work they know, and they must 
keep at it or starve (perhaps and starve). 

A taxicab flings madly up to the door in front, and a 
stylishly clad gentleman floats in at the hall door and 
across the ante-room to the girl at the desk. They ex- 
change pleasant greetings and the girl punches a button 
that communicates with the private office of the powers 
that be. 

"Mr. Oswald Hamilton Brezee to see Mr. Skinner." 

Delighted mumblings by Mr. Skinner come faintly to 
the ears of the lowly ones. The girl turns away from 
the 'phone. 

"Go right in, Mr. Brezee." she says. "Mr. Skinner 
will see you at once." 

Mr. Brezee's "stuff" has caught on. Dozens of 
magazines are clamoring for it. Mr. Brezee vanishes 
and presently reappears, tucking away his check with 
the careless manner of one to whom checks are more or 
less of a bore. He passes into the hall, and in a moment 
the "taxi" is heard bearing him away. 

The lowly ones twist in their chairs and bitterness 
floods their hearts. Like the author ot "Childe Harold, ' ' 
Brezee awoke one morning to find himself famous. 
These others, with the dingy Windsor ties and the long 
hair and pinched faces never awake to anything but a 
doubt as to where the morning meal is to come from. 

After hours of waiting in the ante-room, checks are 
finally produced and passed around to the lowly ones 

i68 



THE FICTION FACTORY 

and they fade away into the haunts that know them best. 
Next pay-day they will be back again, if they are alive 
and have been given anything to do in the meantime. 

Is this game worth the candle? What shall these 
men do with their "little gift" but keep it grinding, mer- 
ciless though the grind may be? They cannot all be Os- 
wald Hamilton Brezees. 

Before a young man throws himself into the ranks 
of this vast army of writers, let him ponder the situa- 
tion well. If, under the iron heel of adversity, he is 
sure he can still love his work for the work's sake and 
be true to himself, there is one chance in ten that he 
will make a fair living, and one chance in a hundred 
that he may become one of the generals. 

The Factory returns for 1910 and for part of 191 1 
are given below. Edwards believes that, in its last 
analysis, 191 1 will offer figures close to the ten-thou- 
sand dollar mark — but it is a guess hedged around with 
many contingencies. 

1910: 

54 nickel novels @ $60 each, $3240.00 

Short story for Munsejr's, 5^5.00 

Short story for The Blue Book, 40.00 

Novelette for The Blue Book 200.00 

Moving picture, Essanay Co, 25.00 

Short story for Gunter's 4000 

Short story for Columbian 15.00 

Paper-book rights, 200.00 

Serial story for Scrap Book, 400.00 

Moving picture, 25.00 

Total $4260.00 

Part of 191 1 : 

5 paper-book rights, $ 50000 

Serial for All-Story 400.00 

Novelette for Adventure, 250.00 

Serial for The Argosy, 250.00 

169 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Novelette for The Blue Book, 200.00 

Short stories for The Blue Book, 150.00 

Short story for Harper's Weekly, 75.00 

Serial for "Top-Notch," 150XX) 

Total, ..$1975.00 



George Ade asked an actress, who was one of the ori- 
ginal cast of 'The County Chairman," to whom he had 
just been introduced, "Which would you rather be — ^a lit- 
erary man or a burglar?" It is related that the actress, 
who was probably as excited as Ade, answered, "Whaf s 
the difference?" And this is supposed to be a humorous 
anecdote ! 



The man who tells stories, sometimes fiction and 
sometmes stories, about the Harper publications, evolves 
the following realistic story about "The Masquerader," 
originally published in The Bazaar. Well, it seems that 
one morning, the editor sat her down and found the 
following letter, which is truly pathetic and possibly 
pathetically true: "You may, and I hope you have, some 
little remembrance of my name. But this will be the 
very oddest letter you have ever received I am read- 
mg that most clever and wonderfully well-written novel, 
'The Masquerader." I have very serious heart trouble 
and may live years and may die any minute. I should 
deeply regret going without knowing the generad end 
of that story. May I know it? Will be as close as the 
grave itself if I may. I really feel that I may not live 
to know the unravelling: of that net. If I may know for 
reason good and sufficient to yourself and by no means 
necessary to explain, may I please have the numbers as 
they come to you, and in advance of general delivery?" 
The editor sent on the balance of the story, but it was 
never revealed whether it made the person well again 
or not. Edwards imagines that the whirl of action in 
books would not be good for the heart— or, for the mat- 
ter of that, the soul. 



170 



XXV. 

EXTRACTS 
GRAVE AND GAY, 
WISE AND OTHERWISE 

Cigars on the Editor: 

"The berth check came to me this morning. I suppose the 
cigars are on me. At the same time, there is another kind of 
check which ]rou get when you buy your Pullman accomoda- 
tion at the Pullman office in the station. It was that which I 
had in mind. I suppose the one you enclosed is the conduc- 
tor's check. I don't believe I ever saw one before." 
How "Bob" Davis hands you a Lemon 

"The first six or seven chapters of 'Hammerton's Vase' 
are very lively and readable — after which it falls off the shelf 
and is badly shattered. Everybody in the yam is pretty much 
of a sucker, and the situations are more or less of a class. I 
think, John, that there is too much talk in this story.* Your 
last thirty pages are nothing but. 

AVIhat struck me most was the ease with which you might 
have wound the story up in any one of several places without 
in anyway injuring it. That is not like the old John Milton of 
yore. You used to pile surprise upon surprise, and tie knot 
after knot in your complications. But you didn't do it in 
'Hammerton's Vase' — for which reason I shed tears and re- 
turn the manuscript by express." 
How Mr. White does it: 

"I am very sorry to be obliged to make an adverse report 
on 'The Gods of Tlaloc.' For one thing the story is too wildly 
improbable, for another the hero is too stupid, and worse than 
all the interest is of too scrappy a nature — ^not cumulative. 
You have done too good work for The Argosy in the past for 
me to content myself with this.... When I return Aug. 9, I 
shall hope to find a corking fine story from your pen await- 
ing my perusal. I am sure you know how to turn out such a 
yam." 

A tip regarding "Dual-identity": 

'The story opens well, and that is the best I can say for it. 
I ^ut up the scheme to Mr. Davis and he expressed a strong 
disinclination for any kind of a dual-identity story."—- Matthew 
White, Jr. 

171 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



How Mr. Davis takes over the Right Stuff : 

"We are taking the sea story. Will report on the other 
stuff you have here in a day or two. In the meantime, remem-. 
ber that you owe me an 8o,ooa-word story and that you are 
getting the maximum rate and handing me the mmimum 
amount of words. You raised the tariff and I stood for it 
and it is up to you to make good some of your threats to play 
ball accordmg to Hoyle. It is your turn to get in the box and 
bat 'em over the club-house. And remember, I am always on 
the bleachers, waiting to cheer at the right time." 

How Mr. White lands on it: 

"'Helping Columbus* pleases me very much, and on our 
principle of paying for quality I am sending you for it our 
check for $350. 

During the earlier years of his writing Edwards 
made use of an automatic word-counter which he at- 
tached to his Caligraph — ^the machine he was using at 
that time. He discovered that if a story called for 
30,000 words, and he allowed the counter to register 
that number, the copy would over-run about 5,000 words. 
At a much later period he discovered by actual compar- 
isons of typewritten with printed matter just the ntunber 
of words each page of manuscript would average in the 
composing-room. From his publishers, however, he 
once received the following instructions: 

"To enable you to calculate the number of words to write 
each week, we make the following suggestions: Type off a 
LONG paragraph from a page of one of the weeklies that has 
been set solid, so that the number of words in each line will 
correspond with the same line in print. 

When you have finished the paragraph you can get the 
average length of the typed line as written on your machine, 
and by setting your bell guard at this average length you will 
be able to fairly approximate, line for line, manuscript and 
printed story. 

A complete story should contain 3,000 lines. Calculating in 
this way, you will be able to turn in each week a story of 
about the right length. Our experience shows us that the 
calculated length of a story based on a roughly estimated num- 
ber of words usually falls short of our requirements, and al- 

173 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



though to proceed in the manner suggested above may involve 
a little extra work — ^not above half an hour at the outside and 
on one occasion only— by it alone are we convinced that you 
will strike the right number of words for each issue." 

** Along the Highway of Explanations": 

"I cannot sec 'The Yellow Streak* quite clear enough. You 
whoop it up pretty well for about three-quarters of the story, 
and then it begins to go to pieces along the highway of ex- 
planations." — ^Mr. Davis. 

Concerning the "Rights" of a Story: 
"Unless it is otherwise stipulated, WE BUY ALL MANUS- 
CRIPTS WITH FULL COPYRIGHT."— F. A. Munsey Co. 

And again : 

"The signing of the receipt places all rights in the hands of 
the Frank A. Munsey Company, but they will be glad to permit 
you to make a stage version of your story, only stipulating that 
in case you succeed in getting it produced, they should receive 
a reasonable share of the royalties. 

The Last Word on the Subject: 

"Mr. White has turned over to me your letter of October 
12, as I usually answer letters relating to questions of copy- 
right. I think, under the circumstances, if you want to drama- 
tize the story we ought to permit you to do so without pay- 
ment to us. The only condition we would make would be that 
if you get the play produced, you should print a line on the pro- 
gram sajring, — ^'Dramatized from a story published in The 
Argosy,' or words to that effect." — Mr. Titherington, of Mun- 
se^s. 

Paragraphing, Politics and Puns : 

"Your paragraphs are pretty good, so far. But SHUN 
POLITICS AND RELIGION in any form, direct or indirect, 
as you would shun the devil. And please don't pun — \t is so 
cheap."— Mr. A. A. Mosley, of The Detroit Free Press, 

Climaxes, Snap and Spontaneity: 

"We don't like to let this go back to you, and only do so 
in the hope that you can let us have it again. The sketch is 
capitally considered, the character is excellent, the way in 
which it is written admirable, the whole story is very funny, 
and yet somehow it does not quite come off. The climax — ^the 
denouement — seems somewhat labored and lacks snaps and 
spontaneity. Can't you devise some other termination — some- 
thing with more 'go?' This is so good we want it to be bet- 
ter."— Editor Puck, 

173 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Novelty and Exhilarating Effect: 

"We have no special subject to suggest for a serial, but 
would cheerfully read any you think desirable for our needs. 
The better plan always is to submit the first two installments of 
about four columns each. Noveltv and exhilarating effect are 
desirable." — Editor Saturday Night 

Saddling and Bridling Pegasus: 

"We are very much in need of a short Xmas poent— from 
i6 to 20 lines — ^to be used at once. Knowing your ability and 
willingness to accomodate at short notice, I write you to ask if 
you can get one to us by Saturday of this week, or Monday at 
latest. I know it is a very short time in which to saddle and 
bridle Pegasus, but I am sure you can do it with celerity if 
any one can." — Editor The Ladies' World. 

Carrying the Thing too Far: 

"We regret that we cannot make use of 'The Brand of 
Cain/ after your prompt response to our call, but the title and 
story are JUST A LITTLE BIT too sensational for our 
paper, and we think it best to return it to you. It is a good 
story, and well written, but we get SO MIJCH condemnation 
from our subscribers, often for a trifle, that we are obliged 
to be very careful. Only a week or two ago we were severely 
censured because a recipe in Household Dep't called for a 
tablespoon ful of wine in a pudding sauce, and the influence of 
the writer against the paper promised if the offense were re- 
peated.'' — From the editor of a woman's joumaL 

And, finally, this from Mr. Davis: 

"We are of the non-cbmplaining species, ourself, and aim 
only to please the mob. Rush the sea story. If it isn't right, 
ril rush it back, by express.... Believe, sir, that I am person- 
ally disposed to regard you as a better white man than the 
average white man because you a larger white man, and, 
damnitsir, I wish you good luck." 



174 



XXII. 

PATRONS AND 
PROFITS FOR 
TWENTY-TWO YEARS 

On the 20th of this month (September, 191 1) it will 
be just twenty-two years since Edwards received pay- 
ment for his first story. On Sept. 20, 1889,, The De- 
troit Free Press sent him a check for $8. On that $8 
the Fiction Factory was started. 

Who have been the patrons of the Factory for these 
twenty-two years, and what have been the returns? 

A vast amount of work has been necessary in order 
to formulate exact answers to these questions. Papers 
and other memoranda bearing upon the subject were 
widely scattered. During Edwards' travels about the 
country many letters and records were lost. The list 
that follows, therefore, is incomplete, but exact as far 
as it goes. More work was realized upon, by several 
thousands of dollars, than is here shown. For every 
item in the record Edwards has a letter, or a printed slip 
that accompanied the check, as his authority. The er- 
rors are merely those of omission. 

Titles of the material sold will not be given, but fol- 
lowing the name of the publication that purchased the 
material will be found the year in which it was either 
published or paid for. 



175 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Adventure, The Rldsrway Compcmy, Bpring & Mac- 
dousral Street!, New York City, 1911 — 1 novel- 

ert^tet w I 250. 

All^Story Masraxlne, Tlie F. A. Mun^ey Co., 176 

Fifth Ave., New York City, 1904—1 serial 226. 

1906 — 2 short stories, 1 serlaL 255. 

1906 — ^2 serials 960. 

1908~<3 serials. 1,000. 

American Press Association, 45 & 47 Park Place, 

New York City, 1905 — 2 Short stories 80. 

The Arsrosy, F. A. Munsey Co., 176 Fifth Ave., New 

York City, 1900—1 serial 250. 

1901—1 serial 200. 

1902—1 serial 260. 

1903 — 1 novelette, 4 serials. 1,060. 

1904 — 1 short story, 1 novelette, 4 serials. . V75. 

1905 — 3 serials, 1 novelette 926. 

1906— •2 serials. 600. 

1911—1 serial 260. 

Boston Globe, Boston, Mass., 1897 — 1 short story. . . 4. 

Boyce's Monthly, ChlcafiTO, Ills., 1901 — 1 short story. 10. 
Banner Weekly, The, Beadle & Adams, New York 

City, 1889 — 1 short story «. 

Blue Book, The, Chicagro, Ills., 1907 — 1 novelette.... 220. 

1908— '2 novelettes 400. 

1910 — 1 short story, 1 novelette 240. 

1911 — 1 novelette, 8 short stories 860. 

Chips, Frank Tousey's Publlshlnsr House, New York 

City, 1901 — 1 short story. 4. 

Chatter, 12 Beekman St., New York, 1890 — ^1 short 

story. 6. 

— 1 short story 6. 

Chicago Inter-Ocean, Chicago, Ills., 1898^—1 article, 

space rates 2.50 

Chicago Record, Chicago, Ills., 1897 — 1 short story.. 5. 

1898—1 short story. 7. 

— 1 short story 4. 

19101 — short story 6. 

Chicago Dally News, Chicago, Ills.,1898 — ^1 short 

story 8. 

1899 — 1 short story 8.60 

1899 — i short stories 14.50 

1901 — 1 short story 5. 

Chicago Blade, Chicago, Ills., 1891 — 2 articles, space 

rates, 1 short story. ^ 10. 

Chicago Ledger, Chicago, Ills., 1891 — 3 serials 120. 

1892 — 2 Aerials 55. 

1896—1 sertal 50. 

1904 — 1 serial. 75. 

1905 — 2 serials 80. 

X906 — 2 serials 100. 

19«07— 1 serial. 76. 

Columbian Magazine, ' New York City, 1910 — 1 short 

story 15. 

Demorest's Monthly, New York City, 1899 — 1 article. 5. 
Dillingham Co., G. W., New York City, 1903 — ^royal 

ties 96.60 

1906— royalties 10.20 

1908 — royalties. 1.60 

176 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



190>— Cloth book rtrhta. 

Detroit Free !E>reaH. The, Detroit, Michigan.. 
1889—1 short story 



IBBO— 2 B 

1891—1 H 
1892— S 8 



Htory, apaco rau*. . 



ISSi — 1 apace rate 

1B»B— 1 apace r»te 

1898—1 ahort Btory. 

18RB — 3 ahort atorfea. 

1900 — t ahort atory. 

Kaaana}' Film Monulacturlng' Company, Cltl«aKO, 

1910 — ii. P. acenarl'o. 

Figaro, 170 Madlaon St., Chicago, 

1890 — 1 apace Tate. 

1B9I — 1 apace rate 

1S92 — 1 space rate 

Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly, 110 Fltth Ave., Hew 
Tork City 

Ounter'a Magailne, Street & SmlVhVffeWork'city! ! 

1910—1 short atory 

Harper"* Weekly. New York City. 

IllDBtrated Amarlcan, Il2a Broadway, New York City 

1896-2 verses .■■ 

Kellogg Newspaper Co., The A. N., Tl-71 W, Adama 
St,, Chicago 

190S — 1 aerial 

Life, New York City 

1897—1 short Htory 

Ledger Monthly, Ledger Building, N. T, 

1S99—1 short story 

Lubin Mfg. Co.. Phlladeljhia, Pa. 

1*10— M. P. sBiiarlo 

Liadiea' World, The, New York City 

1891—1 verac ,'.'.',".'.'.'.'.'.*.'.*.'. 

— 1 yene. 

18*1 — 1 T«rs«a 

18*1 — 1 vene. 

18*8— 1 abort atory. 

HcClare'e Newspaper Syndicate, The, 118 Naaaau St., 
New Y*rk City, 

1901—1 abort atoHea, i aerials 

—1 aerial 

Me{7B Monthly, Detroit, Michigan 

18(>S— 3 ahort atorlea. 

Hunaey'a Hagaslne. New Tork C9ty, 

189*— 1 ahort atory. 

1904—1 short Btory. 

1*10—1 short atory. 

N«w Tork World, New York City, 



IQ, neir lorK < 
abort atory. 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



BroufiTht forward $10,82».14 

1897—2 short stories 15.02 

1898—1 short story 4.68 

1899 — 1 short story. 5.60 

Overland Monthly, 608 Montsromery St., San Francisco, 

1897—1 short story 10. 

Ocean, F. A. Munsey Co., New York City, 

1907—1 serial 460. 

People's Maerazine, The, Street & Smith, New York 

QiXy • 

1906—1 serial.' *. V/. V.7.'. V. '/. .*. V. *.V. . .'. 200. 

1907—1 serial 260. 

1908 — 2 serials. 600. 

Popular Magazine, The, Street & Smith, New York 

City, 

1904—2 novelettes 266. 

1909 — 1 serial 200. 

Fuck, Keppler & Schwartzmann, Puck Buildinff, New 

York City,1891— 2 short stories 20. 

1892 — 1 short storv 6. 

1898— '2 short stories, 1 verse 14. 

1896 — 1 short story 6. 

1897 — 2 short stories, 1 verse 22. 

1899 — 2 short stories 17. 

Railroad Man's Maerazine, F. A. Munsey Co., New 

York, 1906 — 2 serials 700. 

1907— H serial 600t 

1908— « serials 660. 

1909 — 2 short stories 70. 

Red Book, Chicaero, Ills., 1906 — 1 short story 75. 

1909^—1 short story. 40. 

Scrap Book, F. A. Munsey Co., N. Y. C„ 1906 — ^1 

serial 200. 

1908—1 (serial SOOu 

1910 — 1 serial 400. 

1911—1 serial 400. 

Saturday Times, The, Chicagro, Ills., 1907 — 1 serial.. 60. 
Southern Tobacco Journal, Winston, N. C, 1897 — 1 

verse 2. 

Short Stories, Current Literature Pub. Co., New 

York City, 1891 — 1 short story, 6. 

1898 — 2 short stories 10. 

1900 — 2 short stories 30. 

San Francisco Chronicle, San Fran., 1896 — 1 short 

story 6. 

Saturday Nigrht, James Elverson Pub. Philadelphia, 

Pa., 1890 — 1 serial 75. 

1891— -1 serial, 8 short stories 166. 

1892—^ short stories 10. 

1893 — 1 serial, 5 short stories 160. 

Truth. 203 Broadway, New York City, 1893 — 1 shori 

story 8.60 

1897 — 7 short stories 57. 

Top-Notch Masrazine, Street & Smith, New York 

City, 1911-1 serial 150. 

Translation Risrhts, 1908 « 40. 

Vitafirraph Company of America, The, Brooklyn. N. 

Y., 1909— M. P 10. 

Wayside Tales, Detroit Monthly Publishing: Oo., 

Detroit, Mich.. 1901 — 8 short stories 28. 



ty 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



l>Ot — 1 BhoTt •toriei. ... 

DOS — 1 abort ttory. 

White Klcnlmnl. Frai-lt ToiiseVB 

Tock City, lg»T— £ ahort sto: 

Weatern world. ChlcaKo. 111b., 



Pub. Hou««, New 



laOO— a aerlftl*, 7 



Horn 
Sankeo Blade, 



Companion, New T«rk. ItOC — I 
jOBton. MB.HB.. IBID — 1 •bort st«rlea. 

— 1 short Btory 

I company, New York City. 1910— M. P 

"t Smith, New York CUT, 1900 — 14 iMttM 

)8 — 7 paper-bQok' 'rlghta. .. I ! ! . . ! ! 1 . ^ i ! ' i 

IMS — 21 paper-book rlffhta 

"■"■" - Z paper-book rlffhta. 

- E papar-book rlKbta 

Z>odd. Mead ft Co., New York Otr, 1)04 — Cloth book 

r Tork, NlekBI NovBla: t 1S.1* 



.■■4 — I e t 60 each,. 

— SI ^1 I 10 each,. 

.3SS — 24 (ai I 40 each,. 

'"■' — 2 a t 40 each,. 

-.-—IB ® J 40 e»ch„ 

.aSB— as a J 40 each,. 

_BOO-^1 Qi I 40 each,. 

CompletlnK Btory 

'SOI — 10 I 10 each,. 

— g Q I SO each.. 
— lis O t 40 each,. 

.903 — SI O I 40 each,. 

190S — 44 O t 40 «ach,. 

'-"1 — 28 I 40 each,. 

— 4 I GO each,. 
SOS—IO t GO each,. 

.BOB—IS t GO each,. 

'907— .^2 t GO each,. 

BOB — 4G fli t GO each,. 

B0»— » © f BO each,. 

BI0~G4 1 SO each.. 
Ten-Oent Novels: 



. i— 2 i. , 

BerialB for "Queat;" 

— 2 tSOO eitch 

-~ 2 & 1500 A 1400 . 

1S9T^ 1 

!89G— S & tSOO ft tSOO. 

S*S— t & ISOO 



THE FICTION FACTORY 



Brought forwiKrd $64,868.44 

Juvenile Serialu: 

1898— < 2 <» $100 & 175 175. 

1894 — 1 176. 

1894— 1 100. 

1901'— 4 O flOO each.. 400. 

1902 — 4 & $100 each. 400. 

MiscellaneouB: 

1897-— 4 magazine sketches 40. 

— < 1 magazine sketches 6.16 

1900 — 10 trade-paper sketches 100. 

1901 — 9 trade-paper sketches 90. 

1902— 1 trade-paper sketch 10. 

Total I 65,859.60 



The finest music in the room is that which streams 
out to the ear of the spirit in many an exquisite strain 
from the hanging shelf of books on the opposite wall, 
pvery volume there is an instrument which some melodist 
of the mind created and set vibrating with music, as a 
llower shakes out its perfume or a star shakes out its 
light Only listen, and they soothe all care, as though the 
siiken-soft leaves of poppies had been made vocad and 
poured into the ear. — James Lane Allen, 



When William Dean Howells occupied an editorial 
chair in Harper's office, a young man of humble and 
rough exterior one day submitted personally to him a 
poem. Mr. Howells asked: 

"Did you write this poem yourself?" 

"Yes, sir. Do you like it?" the youth asked. 

"I think it is magnificent," said Mr. Howells. "Did 
you compose it unaided?" 

"I certainly did," said the young man firmly. **! 
wrote every line of it out of my head." 

Mr. Howells rose and said: 

"Then, Lord Byron, I am very glad to meet you. 
I was under the impression that you died a good many 
years ago." 



i8o 



ADVBRTISBMBNTS 



Announcement 

. In addition to "The Fiction Factory," 
The Editor Company are publishers at 
Eidgewood, New Jersey, of The Editob, 
(The Journal of Information for Literary 
Workers), which has been published solely 
in the interests of writers for eighteen 
years, and of the followii^ books: 
THE WRITEE'S BOOK $2.50 

Compiled hy William R. Kane. 
PE ACTIO AL AUTHOESHIP 1.50 

By James Knapp Reeve. 
1001 PLACES TO SELL MMS 1.00 

{The American Writer's, Artist's 
and Photographer's Tear Book) 
in its ninth edition. 
POINTS ABOUT POETEY 60 

By Donald G. French. 
EHYMES AND METEES 50 

By Horatio Winslow. 
THE FICTION WEITEE'S 

WOEKSHOP 50 

By Duncan Francis Young. 
HOW TO WEITE A SHOET STOEY .50 
THE EDITOE MANTTSCEIPT 

EECOED (loose leaf) 50 

ESSAYS ON AUHOESHIP 25 

THE WAY INTO PEINT 25 



THE EDITOR COMPANY 

mOGEWOOD, NEW JERSEY 



THE EDITOR 



IF 3rou write, or if you have 
an itching to write, we want 
to talk to you. 

The Editor^ we may explain, 
is "The Journal Of Informa- 
tion For Literary Workers." 
It is not at all pretentious, 
and not at all dull. It is a 
matter-of-fact little magazine, 
always filled with good, read- 
able articles on the technique 
of writing. Sometimes they 
are contributed by authors and 
sometimes by editors. 

We aim to show our pa- 
trons, so far as such things 
may be taught, how to write 
fiction, poetry, articles and the 
like, and then how to sell 
tiiem, provided they are up to 
the standard demanded by 
editors. We have been as- 
sured so many times that it 
wearies us, that our magazine 
has been the lever that pried 
open the editorial doors of 
pretty . nearly every publication 
m the country. In addition to 
our articles we present our 
Literary Market department 
in which we list monthly the 
complete report of editorial 
needs, announcements, policies, 
changes, prize-contests, etc. 
This enables the writer to 
keep his finger on the maga- 
zine pulse; he knows what to 
write, when to write it, how to 
write it, when to submit it, 
what payment will be made, 
and countless other points. 
Authors such as George Allan 
England, who is selling regu- 
larly to McClure's, Red Book, 
Bohemian, etc., have been 



good enough to say that this 
department alone is worth the 
subscription price. Now add 
to the foregoing a spice of 
good verse, bright editorial 
comment, and you'll know why 
every editor and very nearly 
every author of note sends his 
writer-friends to us. 

Why you can't write and do 
without the authors' trade- 
journal 1 You will always 
find something between the 
covers of the magazine that 
drives you to work, that spurs 
you to greater efforts, that 
puts you on the high road to 
success. 

We pride ourselves on the 
fact that The Editor is a 
good, live text-book. It is a 
pretty sort of a te'acher, you 
know, who never sees an edu- 
cational journal; new methods 
and systems are cropping out 
constantiy. And no writer — 
we leave this to you — ^likes to 
send a manuscript to a maga- 
zine that suspended a few 
months ago; nor allow an ar- 
ticle to go unread that may 
cover just the point on which 
his or her rejections cling. 
The writer wants hints, helps, 
and as many of them as pos- 
sible; everybody does. There 
is no magazine that better 
meets this want than The 

EDnXML 

We've succeeded in pleasing 
and making famous the prom- 
ising writer- folk of this coun- 
try since 1894. Mayn't we 
have you? 
IS cents a copy. .$1.00 a year 



THE EDITOR COMPANY 

UDGEWOOD, NEW JERSEY 



k 



Stanford Univereily UbrartM 

3 6105 124 434 619 





1c 



ii 



Stanford University 

Stanford, California 



Retnni this book on or before date dne.